Police Minister Bheki Cele sent out a clear message to South Africans on Thursday that the country was not under any form of attack and was safe and stable, ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address (Sona) at Cape Town’s City Hall later in the evening.
The address has been moved to City Hall from its usual venue in parliament after a fire damaged the building in an alleged arson attack last month.
Addressing some 600 members of law enforcement agencies, including the police, defence force and metropolitan police, who will safeguard the parliament precinct, Cele conceded that recent events such as the 2 January fire and unrest last July in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had fuelled uncertainty about South Africa’s security.
“There have been things that make South Africans not sure whether the country is stable, whether the country is under any attack. We want to assure South Africans that South Africa is safe, South Africa is stable. Nobody should think South Africa is under any form of attack,” he insisted.
The minister told the officers that although they should be considerate to citizens in carrying out their duties, they had a constitutional obligation to enforce the law.
“It remains your obligation with your colleagues that you walk in unison to protect and serve, to make sure people of South Africa that are here are safe and protected,” the police minister said.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Cele said the police service was confident that “preliminary movements” outside parliament would go well.
Responding to a question from the Mail & Guardian, he said no additional police officers had been deployed for this year’s Sona.
“All the work is done in the precincts of parliament where the members of the South African Police Service together with other agencies. Everybody would be safe, everybody would be fine. The president will speak, nothing will happen, [the president] finishes and people [will] disperse,” he said.