SONA: Parliament officials looking at alternative venues

Parliamentary officials are now looking at possible venues to host the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and Budget Speech in February.

The recent fire which broke out at Parliament caused extensive damage, gutting all its key chambers. This means they have no choice but to consider other venues for several activities on the parliamentary diary.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis had offered some of the city’s official venues, including council chambers, for Parliament’s work to continue (even the SONA). The ANC parliamentary caucus had rejected the DA mayor’s offer, calling it a political ploy – but the DA says its offer is genuine -and that parties must set aside their differences.

But ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina denied this, saying all options were on the table at this point.

“But the final caucus statement says we are going to use any public facility in the CBD because they belong to the citizens of SA, and therefore there’s no rejection of any venue by caucus,” Majodina said to eNCA.

WHERE WILL SONA BE HOSTED?

There’s a month to go before the SONA, so there isn’t much time. The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube says if the fire at Parliament is indeed an attack on the country’s democracy, the best anecdote is to ensure that the National Assembly’s work doesn’t stop.

“What we can’t have is that this is also an opportunity for people to loot for tenders to be put out. Let’s use facilities that are available to the country to make sure SONA is done and to make sure committees are sitting.”

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube

National House chairperson Cedric Frolik says they are still waiting for an official report from the Department of Public Works. The fire department is in the process of handing over the building.

Zandile Mafe, a 49-year-old man, was arrested in connection with the fire at Parliament. He faces five charges, including arson and theft.

According to a charge sheet seen by The South African, Mafe was allegedly found in possession of property that belongs to the state, including laptops, crockery and documents, when he was arrested at Parliament.

The NPA’s Eric Ntabazalila, said they still needed to confirm certain information, including Mafe’s residential address and whether he has assets. Mafe is expected to apply for bail at his next appearance, which the State intends to oppose.

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