DA chief whip John Steenhuisen
Photo by: Duane Daws
Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen views an unannounced visit by four Gauteng police officers to his office at Parliament as intimidation.
On May 12, the officers arrived at Parliament to obtain a warning statement from Steenhuisen, after State Security Minister David Mahlobo laid a charge of crimen injuria against him for a tweet in which he alleges Mahlobo might have had something to do with the break-in at the office of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
On Monday, Steenhuisen told News24 that he was in a meeting on Parliament's finances when the policemen appeared at his office on the parliamentary precinct.
After the meeting, he went to meet them with DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach at his side. Breytenbach is a former prosecutor for the National Prosecuting Authority.
"I thought they were coming to brief me," he said. But as it turned out, they wanted him to provide a warning statement.
He refused and pointed out that it is a "complete violation" of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
The act stipulates that any policing function may only be performed on the parliamentary precincts with the permission and under the authority of the Speaker or the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.
The only exception is when it is necessary to avoid immediate danger to life or damage to property.
"No doubt this is intimidation," said Steenhuisen.
"Why send four police officers?"
Steenhuisen said they could easily have called him or e-mailed him to arrange a meeting.
On March 18, after the news broke of the break-in at the Chief Justice's offices, Steenhuisen tweeted: "My money's on Mahlobo and the kak-handed SSA. Signal jammer, imaginary social media villains and inept break ins. Intimidation of judiciary."
Computers believed to contain sensitive information of employees of South Africa's judiciary were stolen. The State Security Agency (SSA) has denied any involvement in the break-in.
The African National Congress responded that Steenhuisen made "wild, untested allegations impugning individuals without a shred of evidence to back it up" and that he should present his evidence to the authorities and South Africans.
On Friday, after the rural development budget was debated, Steenhuisen and house chairperson Cedric Frolick walked around in the National Assembly, pointing at the lights.
Steenhuisen said he was alerted to the new light installations, which looked as if it contained things that could be pinhole, casino style cameras.
"One is right above my bench," said Steenhuisen. "It is very uncomfortable."
He said MP's often have sensitive documents open on their desks.
"I'm waiting on a report back from the secretary of Parliament. It may well be innocent."
He is nonetheless concerned about the "over-securitisation of Parliament".
"It is a classic sign of a government in trouble."
Police were not immediately available for comment.