Cape Town -
Parliament’s preparations are on track for Thursday when President Jacob Zuma delivers the State of the Nation address, which traditionally opens the national legislature and marks the start of the parliamentary calendar.
“All’s on track,” Parliament spokesman Luzuko Jacobs confirmed on Thursday.
He said discussions with various roleplayers both within and outside of the national legislature had been under way for several weeks already.
Details such as this year’s theme, widely expected to tie in with the country’s 20th anniversary of democracy, as well as who will participate in the civil guard of honour and other details will be released on Tuesday by the presiding officers Max Sisulu and Mninwa Mahlangu.
However, it is understood that the new upgraded National Assembly chamber will be completed and come into use in time for the joint sitting on Thursday.
The chamber, and the benches for MPs, who speak from there during questions and motions and, if required, cast their votes to pass legislation, have undergone renovations since after last year’s State of the Nation address.
Last year, the electronic system worked sporadically during voting on legislation, frequently requiring manual head counts of parliamentarians.
Meanwhile, workmen are busy sprucing up the parliamentary precinct: fences have been given a fresh coat of paint, pavements cleaned with high pressure water hoses and repairs on buildings have been finalised.
Work to put up banners with this year’s themes and the stages for the entertainment and other displays is expected to continue right up until Thursday, when the red carpet is rolled out across the parliamentary precinct.
Strict security measures for Thursday’s opening of Parliament and the State of the Nation address have already been circulated by the office Secretary to Parliament.
The rule for the day: no accreditation, no access – even parliamentary staff not accredited will be asked to leave the precinct by 1pm, while deliveries are banned from 2pm, according to a document seen by the Cape Argus.
A strict regimen has been put in place for the off-site vetting of cars, followed by an escort to Parliament, for those MPs, who want to park in their usual bays in the parliamentary parking bays. Guests are allocated parking elsewhere and will be transported by shuttle to Parliament.
Guests, who have not gone through the security checks by shortly before 6pm – the time by which they must be seated in the National Assembly’s gallery and overflow venues elsewhere in Parliament – will not be allowed into the precinct, according to the security measures.
As usual, several of the roads around Parliament will be closed off for most of the day.