Revealed: This is the FULL cost of SONA 2022 to the taxpayer

South Africa’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) under State of Disaster regulations will be a relatively lowkey affair on 10 February. The Parliamentary curtain raiser will be held at the Cape Town City Hall after a blaze destroyed the National Assembly at the start of the year.

FULL STEAM AHEAD TO SONA 2022

Secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso, told Members of Parliament (MPs) what to expect on the day, in a briefing to the joint programme committee, on 13 January.

Xaso said due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in place only 300 MPs from the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) would be allowed to attend SONA 2022 physically and the rest would join virtually.

In addition, there will be approximately 70 guests including, members of the judiciary, legislature and executive. As well as former presidents, heads of Chapter Nine institutions, the media and provincial leaders.

In January, the EFF expressed its unhappiness with excluding MPs from the ceremony. The National Assembly, alone, has 400 members and the NCOP has about 90.

Floyd Shivambu called for SONA to be held at a venue large enough to accommodate all MPs – as the current COVID-19 restrictions allow for indoor gatherings of up to 1000 people.

However, Parliament’s presiding officers said under normal circumstances the Cape Town City Hall could only accommodate 900 people, which is why the reduced number was selected. Also, National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the hall was the most affordable option and too much work had already gone into the preparations to switch venues now.

R1.9 MILLION SET ASIDE

Xaso told MPs a budget of R1.9 million had been allocated to SONA 2022 but this figure could be reduced.

For comparison, the 2021 SONA had a minimum budget of R2.2 million but it ended up costing just over R100 000 because of the austere proceedings. Only 50 guests attended the event in person and the rest watched and participated from screens.

This pales in comparison to the SONA budgets of pre-pandemic years. “Compared to what Parliament has spent in the past, there are significant savings – and all money that is not used will be diverted to the urgent and serious needs in the work of Parliament,” said NCOP chairperson Amos Masondo last year.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo indicated that a significant chunk of the budget set aside is likely to be used when the City Hall was announced as the SONA 2022 venue.

He said the reason Parliament has been able to reduce its expenditure on the address over the years is that it already had the venue and everything else needed to pull off the event. That will not be the case this year.

“We’re going to a City Hall that is empty and we need to bring our own chairs, our own sound system, etcetera. So, we don’t know how much we’re going to spend but will be able to provide such answers to the public once we are done,” said Moloto to eNCA.

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