Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘It’s not a pompous ceremony’: Parliament on Sona’s R8 million budget

Parliament says it has taken measures to mitigate load shedding.

Taxpayers could fork out around R8 million for this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) proceedings.

This year’s Sona will, like in 2022, be hosted at the Cape Town City Hall, with more than 400 people expected to attend the annual event on Thursday evening.

‘All systems’

Addressing the media on Tuesday, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said all preparations were in order for President Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver the 2023 State of the Nation Address.

“We can certainly state it’s all systems go for 2023 Sona,” she said.

Alongside MPs, Mapisa-Nqakula said, special guests such as former President Thabo Mbeki, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, Chief Justice Zondo, Deputy Chief Justice Maya, among other judges, will also be present at the event.

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“490 Members of Parliament including representatives of Salga [South African Local Government Association] will be accommodated on the floor of the chamber, whilst 263 guests constituted of representatives of various sectors of our society will be accommodated in the public gallery of the hall,” she said.

All MPs are expected to be seated by 6pm, with the president set to give his speech from 7pm.

Protests and disruptions

The Speaker indicated that Parliament has also noted the planned protests ahead of Sona.

“Peaceful protests are a feature of our constitutional democracy and a means to express views on the State of the Nation Address. Appropriate arrangements will be made to receive memorandum where required.

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has also confirmed that it has since put measures in place to ensure Sona is delivered without any major disruptions.

“Integrated and joint law enforcement operations are underway and law enforcement officers have been deployed and are on high alert to ensure that the Sona takes place in a secure environment, with no incidents of crime before, during and post the Sona,” police spokesperson, Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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“Any action aimed at disrupting the Sona or intentionally contravening the law, will be dealt with accordingly within the ambit of the law.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), however, has vowed to disrupt the president’s address.

“On 9 February 2023, Cyril Ramaphosa will not address that Parliament peacefully,” EFF leader Julius Malema on Saturday.

But National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson Amos Masondo said Parliament will “be firm” on the possible disruptions.

“We will do everything to ensure that the State of the Nation Address is a success,” he said.

Watch the briefing below:

Load shedding and costs

Meanwhile, Parliament has also taken all the necessary steps to avoid the president’s address from being plunged into darkness.

“We are all facing this challenge in the country, but there will minimisation of load shedding. Part of our engagements with the City [of Cape Town], which in collaboration with Eskom, [was that] there will be measures taken to make sure that there is no load shedding that will impact the delivery of Sona.

“[This includes] the related precincts that will be central to feeding live coverage of Sona. That work is ongoing including alternative measures to mitigate the likely hood of load shedding,” Secretary to Parliament Xolile George said.

George said around R8 million has been budgeted for Sona after Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, last year, allocated R118 million to Parliament.

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“[The amount] takes into account a number of logistics that are related to putting together an event of this magnitude and scale. But consistent to the challenges that our country is facing on the fiscus, every attempt and measure is taken to minimise the issue of cost related to this.”

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo further clarified on the matter.

“R8 million is what has been budgeted for this year, but what we end up spending will be a different matter. For instance, last year’s budget was [also] R8 million, but we ended up spending just R5.9 million,” Mothapo said.

“Most of the expenditure really has got nothing to do with what you call a pompous ceremony… the major cost drivers is the cost of holding this event outside of the traditional precinct of Parliament including broadcasting which is quite a lot when you rent per day.”

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