Parliament's SONA banquet cancelled, savings expected

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cape Town – Parliament’s presiding officers have announced that they expect to save millions as they will no longer host a gala dinner after President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.

Briefing journalists on Thursday, the officers, led by Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Thandi Modise, also said they were more than ready to host the event despite the date change, and added that they would implement a “wet plan” should the weather be unfavourable for the SONA parade on Tuesday.

Baby Tyawa, the Deputy Secretary to Parliament, said the budget for SONA 2014 was set at R4-million – which is less than February’s SONA budget of R5.7-million.

Tyawa said Parliament always factored in the MTEF (Medium Term Expenditure Framework) allocation from the National Treasury and that this year, presiding officers knew they were going to have two SONAs.

“For this particular [event] we have budgeted R4-million. However, that is the budget, not the cost.

“It is likely that we will have a savings but I will not put a figure to the savings primarily because we are not going to have the gala dinner at the ICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre). We are going to have [a cocktail dinner] on the precinct so we are anticipating a saving, but I cannot give a figure to the particular saving.

“At the ICC, we would normally spend about R3.5-million to book the venue as well as [to get] what we normally need,” she said.

She said Parliament’s administration was, despite the pressures that came with the President’s request for SONA to be moved from 19 to 17 June, prepared for the change as they had always planned for it in the past.

“Yes there was pressure, because it meant we had to work a little bit faster as a result. It is all systems go, we will have real-time rehearsals on Sunday.”

Prior to the President delivering his speech, a parade is held for him and the deputy President along the red carpet that is usually laid along Parliament Street that leads to the entrance of the National Assembly.

She said in case it rained, a “wet plan” was in place to ensure that the parade would not be washed out in such an event.

This would mean that the parade would happen indoors instead of outside.

“Fortunately, the team also does plan for a wet plan, and ensures that the Presidency is informed so much as we look at the weather reports on a continuous basis. I am told that in Cape Town the weather can change in five minutes and I have been shown that they definitely do have contingency measures.

“So when we do the rehearsals, we will do both rehearsals for the dry weather as well as the wet weather and that communication is sent to the Presidency and to all the stakeholders affected.”

Real-time rehearsals for both the dry and wet plan will be held on Sunday.

After the President’s speech on Tuesday, a debate on SONA will take place on 18 and 19 June, and President Zuma will respond to the debate on 20 June. –

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