Parliament cuts SONA costs

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Cape Town - The cost of this year's first State Of The Nation address is R2 million less than last year, Parliament's acting secretary Baby Tyawa said on Tuesday.

Responding to questions at a media briefing on the address, which President Jacob Zuma is set to deliver at 7pm on Thursday, she said the budgeted cost was R5.7m.

“Spending [on it] is R2m less this year.”

Earlier, National Council of Provinces Chairman Mninwa Mahlangu said Parliament had “definitely taken into account what Treasury said about tightening our belts”.

He was referring to an announcement by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, made in his medium-term budget policy statement last year, of severe cuts to government perks.

Mahlangu said there would be two State of the Nation Addresses this year.

“In a general election year, like this one, there are two State of the Nation Adresses, one in February, and another one after the election and the establishment of a new Parliament.”

The general election is set to take place on May 7.

Responding to a question, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu said a date for the second address had not been set, but it would be shortly after the election.

Mahlangu stressed that Thursday's event was not the opening of Parliament because the institution had resumed work last month, with a constituency period and an “intense” committee programme.

The traditional banquet held on the day would this year be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and not in a tent, as was done last year.

“It's cheaper at the convention centre than having tents,” Deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo told reporters.

Thursday's event will be a full ceremonial occasion. It will start at 4pm, with MPs, Cabinet ministers and guests arriving at Parliament's Poorthuys entrance.

As in previous years, there will be processions of dignitaries, including members of the judiciary and provincial premiers, up Parliament Street to the National Assembly.

Zuma will arrive in time to take the national salute at 6.55pm from a podium in front of the building. This will include a 21-gun salute and a fly-past by aircraft of the South African Air Force. The president's address will be broadcast live.

On preparations at Parliament, Mahlangu said he could say with confidence that all was on track.

Debate on what Zuma tells South Africa will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, with the president responding to this next Thursday (February 20). - Sapa


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