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Parliament ready to host SONA!

Despite logistical challenges associated with preparing for the 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA), National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says Parliament is ready to host the event on Thursday.

For the first time in South African history, the SONA will be delivered outside the Parliament precinct, after the building was gutted in a fire in January. President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the SONA at the Cape Town City Hall.

Addressing the media on the 2022 SONA state of readiness, Mapisa-Nqakula said organising this year’s event had been a logistical nightmare, saying the fire threw preparations into uncharted waters.

She said: “The eleventh hour change in the venue has caused a serious setback in the planning and preparations, which ordinarily begin several months in advance. Parliament, in cooperation with the executive, has had to swiftly adjust and set in motion an around-the-clock, intensive implementation of programme of action plan to ensure SONA is neither derailed nor delayed”.

The Cape Town City Hall was where former President Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990 addressed thousands of South Africans for the first time after his release from 27 years of incarceration.

The theme for the 2022 SONA was “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”, consistent with the theme of the 6th Parliament.

This theme reinforces the character of a people’s Parliament and the spirit of the Constitution, which enjoins us to entrench and deepen democracy, and improve the quality of life of all South Africans.

This year, as per tradition, President Ramaphosa will be ushered in by Imbongi Mosimanegape Jeremiah Jason, who will recite his poem in SeTswana. The 31-year-old Jason is from Manthe village, in Taung, in the North-West Province.

The Speaker said since the COVID-19 pandemic, Parliament had enhanced its ICT technologies and started working in a hybrid manner.

“We confirm that we will continue with this approach for the SONA, together with the debate thereon and reply thereto,” she said.

In this regard, and in keeping with government regulations to manage the spread of COVID-19, 298 MPs would be seated in the chamber. A limited number of representatives of other arms of State, spheres of government, dignitaries and media will be allowed in the gallery.

She said: “The proportional representation of political parties was a key consideration in allocating seats to MPs. The National Assembly will be physically represented by 238 MPs, whilst the National Council of Provinces will have 75 delegates, including provincial Premiers and SALGA representatives”.

The National Assembly will be represented as follows in the (physical) Chamber: African National Congress (138); Democratic Alliance (50); Economic Freedom Fighters (26); Inkatha Freedom Party (8); Freedom Front Plus (6) and African Christian Democratic Party (2). The remaining eight smaller political parties, UDM, ATM, GOOD, NFP, AIC, COPE, PAC and AL JAMA-AH will each be represented by one MP.

The NCOP seats will be allocated as follows: ANC (26); DA (12); EFF (seven); FF Plus (one); SALGA (five) and nine Premiers.

She said dignitaries invited for physical attendance include former Presidents, former Presiding Officers, SADC-PF President, Dean and the Regional Deans of the Diplomatic Corps and Secretaries of Provincial Legislatures.

Former President Thabo Mbeki; former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and former Speakers of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, Max Sisulu and Frene Ginwala had all confirmed attendance.

“After the President’s address, the two Houses of Parliament will debate the address over two days, 14-15 February, and the President will reply on 16 February.

The joint sitting will be broadcast live on radio and television and streamed live on the parliamentary website, parliamentary television on DSTV channel 408, and Parliament’s YouTube channel.

“The satellite feed of the proceedings will be provided to all broadcasters and other multimedia platforms to ensure as many South Africans as possible have access to that day’s proceedings.

“While Parliament Presiding Officers we continue to be highly concerned by the torching of state buildings, including Parliament, she said discussions had been held with the SAPS to ensure that the Hall was secured.

“We are confident that all safety and security measures will be intensified to ensure our national heritage and other critical infrastructure across the country is secured,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

She said Parliament was confidently ready to host the 2022 SONA.

“With crises comes opportunities; and we hope that this event will go down in history as another proud moment for our nation – notwithstanding the circumstances under which it is being held,” she said.