Parliament on state of readiness to hold 2022 State of the Nation Address

Statement of the Presiding Officers of Parliament on the state of readiness to hold 2022 State of the Nation Address, 8 February 2022

Good day, ladies and gentlemen of the media.

Thank you for making time to be here today.

1. We meet once again following last week’s historic hand-over of the Cape Town City Hall to Parliament, and its declaration as an extension of the parliamentary precinct. This follows the fire that destroyed the National Assembly building that has over years hosted joint sittings of Parliament, including the annual State of the Nation Address.

2. The devastating fire incident has thrown the preparations on the State of the Nation Address into uncharted waters. The eleventh hour change in the venue has caused 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.

3. That we are here this day, announcing the state of readiness to hold this important event in the parliamentary and national calendar, is a testament to the resilience of our internal business continuity and recovery systems and strength of cooperation among the spheres of government. As we have stressed from the onset, despite the monumental challenges that confronted us at the beginning of the new year, the business of Parliament must and will continue.

Last year, the Presiding Officers of Parliament received correspondence from the President of the Republic, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, calling for a joint sitting of Parliament to deliver the 2022 State of the Nation Address. After consultation, we agreed on Thursday, 10 February at 19h00 as the date and time for this Address. For the first time in the history of our democratic government, this the SONA, the debate thereon and reply by the President thereto will take place outside of the precincts of Parliament. The decision to host the SONA outside Parliament is taken in compliance with the Joint Rules of Parliament and Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures. Since The Cape Town City Hall was declared the precinct of Parliament from 31 January until 16 February 2022, all laws and Joint Rules shall apply to the Joint Sitting as if it is held in the precinct of Parliament.

4. The Cape Town City Hall is where former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela addressed thousands of South Africans for the first time after his release from 27 years of incarceration. Madiba did so from the balcony of the city hall on the 11 February 1990, and his current statue on that very spot immortalises this historic moment.

5. The theme for the 2022 State of the Nation Address is consistent with the theme of the 6th Parliament, “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”. 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.

6. In keeping with the character of this institution as an African Parliament that promotes the centuries-old cultural traditions of our nation, an Imbongi will usher in the President into the Chamber with a poem. The selected Imbongi for this SONA is Mr Mosimanegape Jeremiah Jason, and he will recite his poem in SeTswana. The 31-year-old Jason is from Mr. Manthe village, in Taung, in the North-West Province. Languages for poetry are considered rotationally to give South African languages a fair and equal opportunity. The selection process involves recommendations by provincial legislatures, upon which a determination is made.

7. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Parliament has enhanced its ICT technologies and started working in a hybrid manner where some Members of Parliament are physically present, and others connect through a virtual platform. We confirm that we will continue with this approach for the SONA together with the debate thereon and reply thereto.

8. In keeping with government regulations to manage the spread of Covid-19, a total of 298 MPs will be seated in the chamber, 38 MPs in the gallery, while a limited number of representatives of other arms of State, spheres of government, dignitaries and media will be allowed in the gallery. 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.

9. 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.

10. A total of 38 MPs will be represented (physical) as follows in the gallery; African National Congress (17), Democratic Alliance (7), Economic Freedom Fighters (4), IFP (2), FFP, UDM, ATM, GOOD, NFP, AIC, COPE, PAC and AL JAMA-AH will each be represented by one MP.

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

12. The 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.

13. Guests who have confirmed their attendance include former President Thabo Mbeki; former Deputy President, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and former Speakers of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete, Mr Max Sisulu and Dr Frene Ginwala.

14. We are encouraged by the vast interest shown by the media and ordinary South Africans to be a part of this important event. While Parliament would have liked to receive as many guests as possible, it is impossible for reasons which include limited capacity of the City Hall and the need to observe Covid-19 regulations.

15. 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.

16. The joint sitting will, as usual, 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.

17. For this SONA, Parliament has received eight hundred and ninety-four (894) applications for accreditation from various members of the media wishing to cover the event. After a meticulous vetting process, and due to space limitation, only 300 accredited media personnel will be at the venue. Others will follow the proceedings virtually. This number was reduced in consultation with the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association, which represents members of the media in Parliament, and the three main broadcast media houses.

18. Approved applications are published on the Parliament website.

19. As the Presiding Officers of Parliament, we continue to be highly concerned by the torching of state buildings, including our Parliament. We have been in discussion with the SAPS to ensure that this Hall is 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.

20. Bringing SONA to this historic site has come with unintended disruption and inconvenience to businesses that take place near the hall. We have had several engagements with traders and business owners who trade around the Grand Parade and near the streets that are affected by the road closures. Trading will be affected from 9 - 16 February, but it will resume on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 till 15:00. To this end, the City of Cape Town has provided Harrington Square, the Company Gardens and Heritage Square as the alternative trading venues. The provision of these alternative venues indicates that both institutions, Parliament and the City of Cape Town, remain sensitive to the people's economic needs and ensure continuity of their livelihoods. We regret the inconvenience that the business of Parliament at the city centre will cause to businesses and free movement around the area.

21. We can confidently say that we are ready to host this important event. With crises comes opportunities; and we hope that this event will do down history as another proud moment for our nation – notwithstanding the circumstances under which it is being held.

Source: Government of South Africa