Parliamentary fire the cause for increased SONA costs

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Parliamentary spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, has clarified that the institution is spending more on this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) – to the tune of R8 million – because of the unavailability of the Parliamentary precinct.

This year’s SONA will be held at the Cape Town City Hall, for the second time in a row, owing to a fire that gutted Parliament’s Old Assembly Chamber and the National Assembly Chamber, where SONA is usually held (with these buildings also hosting critical offices of Parliament).

The 2022 blaze continued for at least three days, rendering the precinct unavailable for use.

“We are forced, as Parliament, to pay more than we would have paid if we were still in the precinct of Parliament. The things that we have to pay for, previously we did not have to pay for.

“Things like broadcasting facilities, live transmission to the various television stations in the country - in order to reach and to involve South Africans in the business of Parliament - the conferencing facilities… those are the things we did not have to pay for but here [at the Cape Town City Hall], we have to pay,” Mothapo said.

He emphasised that Parliament chose competitive pricing in order to hire the facilities and equipment it uses, not only for SONA but also for the upcoming SONA Debate, the President’s Reply, which will be followed by, later this month, the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech.

The City Hall facilities were also used in a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament to honour Founding Speaker, Dr Frene Ginwala, who passed away last month.

Regarding the price Parliament has to pay for use of facilities outside of the traditional precinct, Mothapo said: "That is the market price. [We have followed a] competitive process to compare prices and to go for the best available price in the market. To hire those [facilities is] the greatest key cost driver and I think that will account for 90% of the cost of the State of the Nation Address,” he said on Thursday.

Mothapo explained that Parliament has a Constitutional obligation to ensure that South Africans are not left out of the SONA and other Parliamentary activities.

“We are obligated, under the Constitution, to ensure public involvement, to ensure that the public participates in what is happening in Parliament. The Constitution, in terms of participatory democracy, public involvement, public participation… [obliges us] to ensure that we are open, we are transparent and we are involving all South Africans in the work of the institution,” he said. –