PEN SA Statement on the State of the Nation Address

17 Feb 2015
Jacob Zuma

PEN Afrikaans issued a statement in response to the events that took place during the State of the Nation Address in Parliament on the 12th of February 2015.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has, along with many other concerned citizens and civil society expressed their outrage.

PEN South Africa has this to add in support:

Even more disgraceful – indeed unheard of wherever a democratic parliament has convened – is the manner in which a law passed by the South African Parliament and gazetted in 2002 and reaffirmed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in 2012 was broken by that parliament by the jamming and blocking of cellphone and radio signals and communication. The law that was so shamefully broken is the Electronic Communications Act which mandated ICASA to prevent any harmful interference with radio signals. ICASA spelled out the application of that law in its report on the findings and conclusions of the inquiry on mobile telephone blocking devices which was gazetted in November 2002. In 2012 ICASA issued a statement which again stated with emphasis that “no organisation is allowed to jam cellular signal and any device which is used to jam signal is illegal.”

Here is a clear case of Parliament and its officials breaking a law which it passed a few years earlier. In addition to the investigation into this illegality there should be a further investigation into the conduct of the security authorities in allowing such illegal equipment into Parliament.

This illegality was compounded by the illegal conduct of security police in using force to remove EFF politicians from parliament, beating up some of them and other opposition members as well as at least one woman radio reporter in the process.

Further investigation is required into the manner in which the Parliamentary cameras were directed away from the violent events in the chamber and were steadfastly focussed on the Speaker thus preventing the public at large from viewing what was actually happening in Parliament.

While condemning the outrageous conduct of those conducting the administration of parliament, PEN South Africa directs further condemnation at the manner in which the leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters party showed excessive belligerence in making interventions while the President was attempting to present his State of the Nation Address’s and in their highly discourteous attempts at overriding the Speaker’s rulings and attempts to call for order. These disorderly tactics were compounded by a stubborn refusal to leave the House when ordered to do so by the Speaker, precipitating the descent into near chaos. Whether the Speaker’s orders were right or wrong was not an issue for refusal to obey nor an excuse to try to debate the issue in the Chamber. The channels for such protest are through the relevant Parliamentary committee.

PEN’s final observation is to condemn the conduct of President Zuma who sat silent throughout the turbulence and when requested to resume his interrupted State of the Nation Address stood up and chuckled before reading from his script, creating a chuckle that will go down in history as signifying the absence of concern about the serious deterioration in governance and Parliamentary process in SA.

Signed by Margie Orford (President), Mandla Langa (Executive Vice President) and Raymond Louw (Vice President) of PEN SA. 16/02/2015