Parading ahead of the 2020 State of the Nation Address. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Parading ahead of the 2020 State of the Nation Address. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Covid-19 pandemic strips Sona of pomp and ceremony

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Jan 28, 2021

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Cape Town – In strict adherence with the National State of Disaster regulations, this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on February 11 will be stripped of the usual pomp and ceremony, and is set to cost considerably less than the R 2.2 million budgeted earlier for the event.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said: “There will be no red carpet and procession of the three arms of the state, physical participation of junior and civil guard of honour, eminent persons, Imbongi, military parade that leads the presidential procession onto a saluting dais on the steps of the National Assembly, the guard of honour by the National Ceremonial Guard and the 21-gun salute.

“Due to the limited number of persons permitted within the precincts of Parliament, and Parliament’s sensitivity to the prevailing conditions, various ceremonial aspects that usually characterise the Sona have been suspended.

“Where possible and appropriate, some of the traditional features shall take place virtually, in keeping with the significance and character of the Sona.

“The event will cost the bare minimum of the budget envisaged, which is R 2.2m. The significant savings expected will be redirected to modernising the technological capabilities of Parliament to enhance its constitutional functions of public participation, oversight and law-making.”

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise said: “We don’t want to spend that R2m because we have other needs, but we are saying this was the money that was budgeted for. We think we will only spend whatever money the webinar will cost us. We’re not going to be serving anything other than the usual water in the chamber, and that’s it.”

As for the change in the format, National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo said: “Given the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating effect it has had on our society, economically, socially and otherwise, it wasn’t an easy decision to arrive at, but nonetheless we had to make a decision to follow strict adherence to the National State of Disaster regulations.”

Modise said: “We are part of the society. Our people are going through these challenges of Covid-19 and we cannot be insulated from what they are going through. Even if we have enough space in the National Assembly chamber to have more than 100 people, we will keep to the confinements of the Covid-19 regulations.”

Mothapo said: “Parliament has not been spared from the virus, with over 56 recorded infections amongst staff members. We have lost 12 MPs and five officials since the outbreak of the virus.”

Cape Argus

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