SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-chief, President Jacob Zuma, has assured the country its military was part of this year’s State of the Nation address in a purely ceremonial capacity.
He was responding to a question posed the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party chief whip John Steenhuisen on the functions of military personnel deployed in and around Parliament between February 10 and 13. He also wanted the president to tell him whether soldiers undertook any “specific duties” assisting the police during this time in a veiled reference to the signal jamming incident that saw journalists in the press gallery left without cellphone signals and unable to report on events in the National Assembly.
“The participation of the SANDF at Parliament during the State of the Nation address should not be viewed as a deployment. It is a ceremonial tradition practiced not only in the Republic of South Africa, but by countries all over the world. Participation is limited to ceremonial activities and once that part of their participation is concluded, the forces withdraw to their respective units,” Zuma’s reply stated.
Airmen, medics, sailors and soldiers did duties including that of aides-de-camp, door openers, guard of honour, military band, step lining guards, flag bearers, street lining, salute flight, ceremonial motorcycle escort, gun troop for the gun salute, flame guard, flag orderly, military health support and decentralised military control personnel as part of the overall State of the Nation address and related events.
According to Zuma soldiers performed “outer perimeter security” in support of police from February 10 to 13 in the Parliamentary precinct.