Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Ramaphosa refuses to answer questions on signal jamming

Signal jamming in Parliament and the additional security measures employed during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) were back in the spotlight in the National Assembly on Wednesday, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa refusing to answer questions on the matter, citing the sub judice rule. 

Indicating that he would be willing to answer the questions once the issues were resolved in court, Ramaphosa said it would not be appropriate to dwell on them now. 

The deputy president was responding  to  a written question, posed by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, asking on what date was he made aware of the intended use of signal jammers in the house, and other additional security measures, during President Jacob Zuma’s Sona address. 

“The issues are the subject of two legal cases at the moment. I have been reliably informed that hearings into these matters will be happening in our courts in next few days and for that reason I feel constrained to answer the question. I’ve been advised that it is best to let the legal process work and thereafter one can put forward views.

“I’d like to state as a matter of principle that in Parliament, the incident that occurred here should not happen again. I’d be willing to answer the specific issues raised [by Maimane] once the legal case has been concluded,” Ramaphosa said.  

Raising points of orders and supplementary questions, DA, Economic Freedom Fighters and the United Democratic Movement MP’s asked the deputy president to answer broadly about the matters, with DA chief whip John Steenhuisen saying they were not asking about the merits of the case. 

Maimane said it would be a point of interest to find out when the deputy president was informed [about the jammers]. “And I’d like to know, with regard to the removal of the entire caucus, not just members who were asked to leave, should similar conditions prevail in the same conditions, will the deputy president be willing to give a guarantee that the use of the same security measures in fact will not be allowed in this house.”

Deliberate jamming
EFF MP Sipho Mbatha asked if the deputy president would agree that the signals were jammed deliberately “to hide the ill intentions you had of assaulting and dragging out of the members of the EFF out of the chamber”.  

The deputy president again reiterated that he would not be able to answer as the matter was in court. Trying to close the line of question, Speaker Baleka Mbethe said they could not “put deputy president on the floor and extract the answer from him. 

“And that’s as far as we can go.”

Steenhuisen, pointing out that questions were sent to the Deputy President nine days prior to the sitting, said he should have indicated when the questions were tabled that he would not be able to answer. 

“If the deputy president was going to come here today,  and hide behind the sub judice rule, I think it would have been far more honest of him to have indicated that when the questions were tabled at his office, rather than wait for the day to come here and refuse to answer the questions from the house,” he said to cheers from his MP’s and heckling from African National Congress MP’s. 

Accept responsibility
The sub judice rule came up again later over a written question posed by DA MP David Maynier to State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Maynier asked if Mahlobo would be prepared to “accept political responsibility for the operational error involving the use of a signal jamming device” during Sona.  

After saying the question should stand over, house chairperson Thoko Didiza, after consulting with legal services and the minister, gave Mahlobo an opportunity to answer. 

“The issues are in front of the court, and we will respect our oath and rules and not deal with them. We have indicated that in terms of operational efficiency, an error occurred. We regretted the error. And on that basis, we indicated there was no intentional disruption of the signal, but I can’t get to details because they are in front of the court.”

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

‘The children cannot cope any more’: Suicide in Calvinia highlights...

How Covid-19 has intensified the physical and emotional burdens placed on children’s shoulders.

Capitec Bank flies high above Viceroy’s arrow

The bank took a knock after being labelled a loan shark by the short seller, but this has not stymied its growth

More top stories

Farmers squeezed by big retailers

It may be beneficial for consumers when supermarkets push to get the lowest price from suppliers, but it can harm the farmers

Sisters pave the way with ecobricks

The durable bricks are made from 30% recycled plastic, some of which they collect from a network of 50 waste pickers

If the inflation-driving supply strain in the US lasts, it...

In South Africa, a strong trade surplus, buoyed by robust commodity prices, will cushion our economy against pressure arising from US policy

Covid-19: No vaccine booster shots needed yet

Scientists agree it is important to get most of the population vaccinated before giving booster jabs

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…