Praise singer & COVID lantern ceremony: Sona plans at advanced stage

Parliament had to scramble to find a new venue for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address on 10 February after a blaze gutted the new and old Assembly chambers and offices on 2 January.

FILE: Firefighters on the scene of a fire at Parliament on 2 January 2022. Picture: Saya Pierce-Jones/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - While the fire-damaged National Assembly building has been declared unsafe, plans to stage the State of the Nation Address in Cape Town’s City Hall are at an advanced stage.

Officials gave an update at a meeting of the programming committees of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday.

Parliament had to scramble to find a new venue for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address on 10 February after a blaze gutted the new and old Assembly chambers and offices on 2 January.

A top-level meeting on Friday will consider security for the event, for which R1.9 million has been budgeted.

COVID protocols mean that a total of 300 – or 66% – of members of the National Assembly and the NCOP will be able to attend, with shuttles to take them from Parliament to the City Hall.

Secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso, said that all arms of the state will be represented, as well as provincial premiers and Speakers, while former presidents, heads of Chapter Nine bodies and diplomats have also been invited.

The praise singer this year will be Setswana. A lantern-lighting ceremony in memory of those who died from COVID is also planned.

"What we can indicate at this point in time is that the budget, the figure is around R1.9m at the moment, but that figure is being refined and it could go down," Xaso said.

House chairperson, Cedric Frolick, told the meeting that the National Assembly had been declared unsafe by engineers from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

The joint committee on the financial management of Parliament is on Friday set to be given a comprehensive report on the fire by acting secretary to Parliament, Baby Tyawa.