The Presiding Officers of Parliament have announced that this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) will be held at the Cape Town City Hall for the first time ever.
“The City Hall was considered a suitable venue technically in terms of infrastructure and its capacity,” said Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.
Cape Town City Hall historical significance
Cape Town’s City Hall is the first place where former president Nelson Mandela addressed the nation after his release from prison on 11 February 1990, with President Cyril Ramaphosa by his side.
Again, on 9 May 1994, the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu introduced Mandela to the nation on the same balcony, after his election in the National Assembly as the first democratic president.
“In this regard, President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation from the City Hall, 32 years since that historic occasion in 1990,” said Mothapo.
The hall was built in 1905 and is a historic landmark that is now home to a full-sized statue of Mandela on its balcony from where he addressed the people.
The statue was installed in 2017. An exhibition dedicated to Madiba inside the City Hall is a permanent feature.
“We have ensured that this decision to host the Sona outside the Chamber of the [National Assembly], is taken in compliance with the joint rules of Parliament that determine where a joint sitting may be held,” explained Mothapo.
The president calls this joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) annually to deliver the Sona in terms of section 42(5) of the constitution, read with joint rule 7 of the joint rules of Parliament.
Since it is a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, the speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the NCOP host the event, which is attended by the three arms of the state.
The joint rules also prescribe, among others, the venue for the joint sitting of Parliament.
Rule 2 of the joint rules provide for unforeseen matters. In terms of Rule 2(1), the speaker and the chairperson, acting jointly, may give a ruling or make a rule in respect of any matter for which the joint rules do not provide.
“In this regard, a joint rule made by the speaker and the chairperson will allow Sona to be held in a venue other than the chamber of the assembly,” said Mothapo.
The Presiding Officers met on Friday morning to consider options available for business continuity for Parliament’s work, including the hosting of Sona.
The decision to move Sona follows a devastating week in which fires that started on Sunday destroyed Parliament’s buildings, including the National Assembly and sections of the old assembly chamber.
“We made a solemn undertaking that, despite the devastation of the disaster, we will not allow a situation where Parliament’s work is derailed or disrupted in any manner,” said Mothapo.
(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)