President Cyril Ramaphosa had to be whisked away by presidential protection unit agents from the Lilian Ngoyi memorial lecture hosted by the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) at the Lebowakgomo Civic Centre on Thursday afternoon.
ANCWL deputy president Sisi Ntombela, who was the programme director, said individuals who had gained access to the venue without being adequately screened had posed a grave security risk.
“Given the recent events that have befallen our country [the burning of Parliament and the attack on the Constitutional Court precinct], we cannot take risks with the life of the president.”
Ntombela added Covid-19 regulations were also not followed as social distancing was not being adhered to.
“Women, as I earlier indicated, we need to respect ourselves because if we don’t, no one will. It’s too late to do the screening process again and try and adhere to social distancing.”
She later said they were the ones who deemed the event unsafe after engaging with the presidential protection unit.
Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa, who was also at the event and spoke to the president before he was whisked away, declined to comment on whether he made the call to pull the president from the event.
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The event was set to begin at 13:00, but because of delays in the screening process and arrival of dignitaries it started at around 13:45.
Even before the president’s arrival, several ANCWL leaders kept cautioning those in attendance on the need to adhere to regulations, however, the size of the venue made it impossible to adhere to the 1m distance rule.
Ntombela, however, said the numbers were in accordance to the limit of 1000 people allowed indoors.
After the abrupt ending of the meeting, a large delegation of what looked like police personnel and ANC provincial leaders gathered for a debriefing at the back of the venue.