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Presiding officers confident SONA 2022 will go according to plan

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By Tauhierah Salie

Parliaments presiding officers are confident that President Cyril Ramaphosa will successfully deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday. Addressing the media on Tuesday, Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, confirmed that the hybrid event at the Cape Town City Hall will host a severely reduced guestlist. She noted that the traditional, ceremonial parade will proceed and the relevant road closures have been made public.

The iconic venue was offered by Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis following a devastating fire at the start of the year, which destroyed large parts of the National Assembly.  The building whose steps from which former president Nelson Mandela ushered in democracy in 1994, was declared as the “parliamentary precinct” on 31 January.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the “political” decision to go ahead with SONA was cautiously taken and well-debated. She said members felt strongly that the continuation of the highly anticipated event would prove to citizens that threats of sabotage and attempts to disrupt the work of Parliament would not prevail.

This as Zandile Mafe, known as the “Parliament arsonist”, prepares to appeal his rejected bail application on Friday, 11 February 2022. The 49-year-old was arrested shortly after the blaze at Parliament and faces charges of housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism and arson, and theft. Thought to be a flight risk, Mafe was denied bail at the Cape Town Regional Court last week.

Mapisa Nqakula says the City Hall will host nearly 300 MP’s alongside 50 guests in the gallery, including representatives of other spheres of government, dignitaries, and media. The National Assembly will be represented by 238 MPs.  The NCOP will have 75 delegates, including provincial premiers and SA Local Government Association (Salga) representatives.

The EFF had, on Monday, abandoned its legal bid to interdict Parliament to allow all MPs to attend the event in person.  Several consultations concluded the seating arrangements for political parties, as per their representation in Parliament.

Acting Secretary to Parliament Baby Tyawa, R208k was budgeted for the country’s first hybrid SONA in 2020, of which R116k was used.  Based on the move from the National Assembly to the City Hall, Tyawa said that extra costs such as rebranding will be incurred and more would be spent than the previous events.

She said a total of R4m has been allocated to cover the SONA in its entirety, including the subsequent debate and presidential response on the 14th, 15th and 16th next week, respectively. Around R1.9m has been earmarked for use on the address alone.

Vendors on the Grand Parade were also consulted, and an agreement was reached wherein trading will not take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Public transport in and around the area will not be severely affected, however road closures will start from tomorrow.

In light of dissatisfaction around the state of service delivery in the country, coupled with the expert report into the 2021 July unrest laying R50b worth of blame on ANC factionalism and a fragmented response from security officials, the National Council of Provinces was questioned over contingency measures in place to deal with potential disruptions.

Chairperson Amos Masondo  says that although disruptions are in “the back of their minds”, Parliament predicted no disturbances.

“We are not anticipating any disruptions or any form of negative trouble… but everything possible will be done to ensure that Sona happens in a way that is positive. Everything possible will be done to ensure overall that it all goes well.”

Accountability over corruption also lies heavy on the scales this year, following the release of the two out of three parts of the State Capture report. The culmination of three years of corruption investigation into fraud, malfeasance and racketeering allegations against various governmental structures and state-owned entities. The Presidency confirmed that Ramaphosa will be outlining government’s first actions in response to the findings and recommendations of the report.

Mapisa-Nqakula says former president Thabo Mbheki, former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and former speaker Baleka Mbethe have confirmed their attendance.

The President’s speech is expected to be live streamed from 7PM on Thursday evening.


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