My two hats during SONA 2015
Written by: Pitso Molemane
I wore two hats to this year’s SONA- one as a journalist, the other as a citizen.
The chaotic SONA 2015 left me caught up in the middle. I went to cover the event as a senior journalist representing Kaya FM. My role was simple. As a journalist, I had to put more focus on updating our listeners about the developments happening in Parliament, as well as around the City of Cape Town. During the day things were fine, but there was some anxiety in the air.
We left our hotel just after 3pm and walked to Parliament instead of driving to avoid the frustration of making our way through restricted streets, above all struggling with parking.
Ncebekazi Manzi (producer of Today with John Perlman), Mathapelo Monaisa (senior producer of 180 with Bob) as well as John Perlman, and I were approaching Parliament, when we saw a group of DA members dancing and singing on Adderley Street. This was an exciting scene for me and I apologised to the group, asking them to allow me to have a look. I was shocked to come across two scenes that raised my eyebrows. On one side were a large group of DA members and on the other side of the street across the road were ANC members. Both groups were yelling, screaming and provoking each other. Police were in the middle of the two groups, closely monitoring the situation.
I was now faced with a dilemma. I took off my journalism hat and became an ordinary member of society. Questions immediately ran through my head like a toddler left alone. SONA is supposed to be a special event on the calendar of Parliament. Why there was chaos now, even before the President addresses the nation, is beyond me. Police were left with no option but to disperse the two crowds. Then problems started when members from both political parties defied security orders and refused to leave. Force was the order of the afternoon. Several people were arrested.
As police were busy clearing the streets, dispersing ANC and DA members, there surfaced EFF members from the adjacent street, singing and dancing. At this juncture, police had their hands full. A water tanker was used to diffuse and chase EFF members. I asked myself why members of various political parties have to start fights between themselves. The army was called in for back up. I was then in the cross fire as I had to immediately take off my citizenry hat and wear the journalism cap to join Kaya Central’s Mo-G and report.
It was then nearing time for President Zuma to address parliament and the nation on his State of the Nation Address. As he started, EFF MPs disrupted Parliamentary proceedings demanding the President to answer “when is he going to pay back the money used to upgrade his Nkandla homestead”. Force was used to remove EFF MPs from the National Assembly.
This created huge attention from many journalists who were inside Parliament, including myself. As both a citizen and a journalist, I asked myself why we have to go through all this chaos. EFF Member, Reneiloe Mashabela was seriously injured. The services of emergency workers were called inside Parliament premises to transport Mashabela to a local hospital.
I had more than one set of responsibilities at SONA2015. As a concerned member of society, I believe incidents outside and inside Parliament have created fears among most citizens as we head to the 2016 local government or municipal elections. It remains to be seen if these fights, hatred and provocation between members of different political parties will soon end.