Workers prepare the Parliament building on Wednesday for President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address.  Picture: GCIS
Workers prepare the Parliament building on Wednesday for President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address. Picture: GCIS

PARLIAMENTARY staff not essential to the running of the state of the nation address were asked not to come to work on Thursday but to rather work from home.

Parliamentary spokesman Luzuko Jacobs confirmed this on Thursday but insisted that they had not simply been given the day off. He said a similar request has been made before to ease congestion and to allow staff to work at home without distraction.

Earlier, Congress of the People (COPE) spokesman Dennis Bloem charged that "after 21 years, our once vibrant peoples’ Parliament has become a no-go area for the ordinary person in the street as well as for the staff of Parliament. The precincts of Parliament are today teeming with security personnel.

"Cleaners, secretaries and many other people working in Parliament were given the day off. Police will be everywhere. The people’s Parliament is in danger of becoming something other than the Constitution envisaged."

He said that Parliament had become less and less a national forum and more and more an executive appendage willing to do the president’s bidding without any questions asked. Moreover, he said, it had failed in the past seven years to scrutinise and oversee executive action because National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete would not allow that and "to her, protecting the president from scrutiny and oversight trumps every other consideration".

"Today SA will see a Parliament riven and split apart. It will see a Parliament, in defiance of the Constitution, delivered over to the president to do as he pleases. Today SA will see a Parliament betraying the ideal of ensuring a government by the people under the Constitution," Mr Bloem said.