Sona delay causes headaches

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 17: President Jacob Zuma during the official launch of the Invest South Africa One Stop Shop (InvestSA OSS) at the DTI campus on March 17, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. The initiative is part of the government’s drive to improve the business environment by lowering the cost of doing business as well as making the process easier. (Photo by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)
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Mninwa Mahlangu, South Africa’s ambassador to the US, flew into Cape Town early last week ahead of the now indefinitely postponed state of the nation address (Sona).

Mahlangu is one of Parliament’s guests and was invited in his capacity as a former chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. Now waiting indefinitely, he is one of Parliament’s presiding officers who were invited to the event. Other guests include former presidents, current heads of the Pan African Parliament and members of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum.

Parliament is paying for Mahlangu’s accommodation as well as his local transportation costs.

The occasion brings to Cape Town heads of the judiciary and provincial legislatures, an imbongi who Parliament flies in and accommodates if he or she is from outside the Western Cape, eminent persons including nine radio competition winners – one from each province – and school children who form the civil guard and junior guards. The latter are generally from local schools.

Kwaito star Arthur Mafokate, who frequently attends the event, took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to offer the platform’s users the use of his hotel rooms, for which the hotel wouldn’t refund him. While it may be too early to quantify the costs of this week’s unprecedented postponement of the annual address, Parliament has been negotiating with suppliers to cap the costs at the rate they would have charged had the event gone ahead on the intended date.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the institution had asked travel agencies to negotiate with hotels and airlines for tickets to be held, without the extra charges that are normally imposed in similar circumstances.

The legislature is negotiating with the City of Cape Town to ask for a week’s extension to keep up the parliamentary banners that line the streets in the central business district, at no extra cost.

City Press understands that Parliament sent hundreds of text messages to its guests this week, informing them about the postponement.

“We have sent SMSes, emails and called every guest to apologise for the inconvenience caused and to notify them that a new date will be communicated. We did that on the same day, swiftly,” said Mothapo. Parliament budgeted R4.3m for the event and is hoping not to exceed this.

On Tuesday, Parliament’s presiding officers: National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise announced that Sona was being postponed amid expectations that President Jacob Zuma would resign or that the ANC would remove him from office. Modise and Mbete said they came to the decision after reading “the mood of the country” and to accommodate unfolding political developments.

They hoped that Sona would not be postponed by more than a week and said they would take into account the scheduled tabling of the national budget on February 21.

On Thursday, Mothapo said everything was being done to make sure the budget was not affected. The chief whips came to the same decision at their weekly meeting.

“There is a general agreement in Parliament including among the presiding officers, that the budget will not be shifted,” Mothapo said.

The Sona delay has affected the holding of all nine state of the province addresses. Several provincial legislatures have already invited guests and prepared venues and other logistics. The legislatures will wait for the Sona date before announcing theirs.

Meanwhile, sources in the ANC have speculated that the party may use section 90 of the Constitution to install Cyril Ramaphosa as acting head of the state. The section makes provision for the deputy president to act as president in the event that the president is out of the country, is unable to fulfil his or her duties, or if there is a vacancy in the office of the president.

SOURCE: Andisiwe Makinana – City Press

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