Mapisa-Nqakula has ordered an investigation into military deployment at SONA

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, this week told Parliament she has ordered an investigation into the deployment of soldiers before, during and after the Presidential State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The deployment of 441 soldiers from 9 SA Infantry Battalion was announced by the Presidency less than 48 hours before Jacob Zuma was due to address Parliament – and the nation – last week.

Mapisa-Nqakula, one of the ruling party’s nominated speakers to respond during the two day Parliamentary debate on SONA, told the National Assembly she would address “albeit briefly, the concerns raised regarding the deployment of some units of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) on the day of the State of the Nation Address”.
“Honourable members and the public are certainly correct to raise these matters if they observe what may seem to be deviations to established requirements in our area of work. I have taken the allegations seriously and have started an investigation. When concluded I will report to the presiding officers (Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chair Thandi Modise).”

In an attempt to defuse some of the tension lingering in the House following untoward scenes and behaviour before SONA, Mapisa-Nqakula assured MPs they were not regarded as a security threat requiring the deployment of the SANDF.

She went on to say the national defence force has always been an integral part of “the ceremony around SONA and other key national events where it plays multiple roles”.
“It is unfortunate that in the past three years we have had to perform our roles under a charged political atmosphere. Greater awareness and understanding by our population of the various roles and functions of the SANDF can only serve to enhance the function of oversight to ensure accountability for all operations undertaken in the name of our defence force.”

As far as the SANDF as an instrument of government was concerned, Mapisa-Nqakula told the National Assembly it had an “inherent capability” to contribute economic development and social upliftment as well as supporting foreign policy objectives.
“Today the defence force is credited as a midwife for peace and has reinforced South Africa’s standing as a country at peace with itself and with its neighbours.
“This is important, considering South Africa’s history before 1994, where the armed forces of the country played a destabilising role in the region, creating conditions of insecurity and suffering among those who dared to support the struggle for democracy and freedom in our country.
“In line with the values of South Africa’s foreign policy, the SANDF has always ensured any of its peacekeeping interventions on the continent are done as part of a mandate of multilateral institutions.
“We will not become a lone aggressor interfering in the affairs of other nations in terms of the injunctions of the ANC’s Freedom Charter that a free South Africa would never use its vast resources, human and otherwise, to impose its dictates on other countries. Instead, South Africa will always strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war.”

Mapisa-Nqakula said the SANDF was “not just a tool for mayhem and war. It is an instrument for peace which creates fertile ground for the stimulation of vibrant economic activity”.