Zuma Deploys Troops to Parliament Ahead of State of Nation Address
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has ordered the deployment of about 440 troops to maintain law and order in parliament for his annual state of the nation address on Thursday.
A statement from the president’s office released on Tuesday said Zuma had authorised the deployment of soldiers to work with the police.
It is the first time that troops will have a security rather than a ceremonial role.
Opposition parties have condemned the decision as a “declaration of war”.
Previous addresses by Zuma have been marred by protests and brawls as opposition MPs demanded his resignation.
Zuma has been dogged by corruption allegations for more than a decade.
According to reports quoted in a local media, intelligence sources have warned there could be massive uprisings at today’s event. Their alerts prompted fears that the police would not be able to cope on their own.
Past state of the nation speeches have been marred by chaos in parliament.
Since winning seats in 2014, members of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ party (EFF) have caused disruption by chanting and jeering at the president over allegations of corruption.
In 2015, EFF members were removed from the chamber by security guards disguised as waiters.
But the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has condemned the president’s decision, describing the move as “deeply concerning”.
“President Zuma’s deliberate use of the words ‘law and order’ in his statement points to an excessive use of the army outside of their ceremonial role in the annual fanfare,” a statement for the DA said.