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Steenhuisen in hot water for tweeting SANDF deployment letter

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ANC MPs criticise publication of letter as “mischievous”

OFFICIAL opposition leader John Steenhuisen will be reported to the National Assembly Speaker for improper conduct after tweeting a photo of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s letter informing parliament that he was deploying the entire South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

The decision was taken by Parliament’s standing committee on defence on Wednesday as it met to be briefed on the deployment by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

“It is really unfortunate that we have been led by the media on a matter that was still going to be ventilated in the committee,” committee chairperson Charles Xaba said.

“We may have to refer the matter to the Speaker because the conduct was not proper.”

There were no objections from MPs to the proposal. 

ANC MPs had criticised Steenhuisen’s publication of the letter as “mischievous”.

Steenhuisen, the interim leader of the DA, said he thought the decision was wholly misplaced.

“It is pathetic, you can’t leak a public document that had already been circulating publicly. I look forward to the charge and exposing just how misdirected Xaba is,” Steenhuisen said on Wednesday.

“This is clearly a rearguard action to cover up the fact that the letter was sent out to the chairperson and others instead of following the correct channels by submitting it to the Speaker.

“Their attention would be far better spent on ensuring proper oversight of the SANDF deployment which has been wholly absent the last four weeks, an absolute indictment on the ability of the chairperson of the committee.”

Mapisa-Nqakula also criticised the publication of the letter and said it should be investigated, adding that the fact that it bore the president’s signature suggested it was “leaked from Parliament”.

Xaba then informed her that the letter had been sent to him and from there to all leaders of opposition parties.

Steenhuisen tweeted the letter on Tuesday night after Ramaphosa delivered a televised address on a R500 billion economic support package to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and its socio-economic impact.

Ramaphosa’s office did not at the time respond to requests for confirmation that all members of the military had been deployed, as indicated in the letter.

Instead, this was confirmed by the minister on Wednesday. She said the decision to escalate the initial military deployment from just under 3 000 soldiers to more than 73 000 was taken after the enormity of the public health crisis became apparent.

– African News Agency (ANA)