ALTERNATIVE VENUE FOR SITTINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOLLOWING DESTRUCTION OF THE CHAMBER
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Parliament, Monday, 10 January 2022 - The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, this afternoon led the Presiding Officers of the House at a meeting with Chief Whips of political parties to discuss alternative venues for official sittings of the National Assembly. Following the fire incident that damaged parts of the buildings of Parliament, including the National Assembly Building, a decision was taken last week to hold the SONA, a joint sitting of Parliament ordinarily held in the National Assembly Chamber, the post-SONA debate and reply by the President at the City Hall in Cape Town.
However, as it is anticipated that any work to repair or rebuild the National Assembly will take longer, a swift decision on the alternative venue for the sittings of the House needed to be taken to ensure the business of the House is not interrupted.
In terms of the National Assembly Rule 43, the Speaker may, in an emergency or on grounds of security, in terms of Section 51(3) of the Constitution, direct that the House sit at a place other than the seat of Parliament in Cape Town or that a sitting of the House is held in a different chamber within the precincts. This must be done after consultation with the Leader of Government Business, who is the Deputy President of the Republic, and the Chief Whips or party representatives of each party.
After considering various alternative venues, the meeting took a decision that, beyond the SONA, the sittings of the National Assembly - including the Budget Speech scheduled for February- must be retained within the precincts of Parliament, in the Good Hope Chamber. Good Hope Chamber, historically utilised for the sittings of the Cape Legislative Assembly between 1854 and 1885, is one of the oldest meeting rooms of Parliament, has essential technical capabilities and meets basic requirements for sittings of the House. It is one of the buildings of Parliament that has not been affected by the fire and has previously been used for National Assembly Mini-Plenaries. It has a seating capacity of 170 persons and permits 70 persons under Covid-19 social-distancing arrangements.
The National Assembly has, since 27 May 2020, been conducting its business in a form of hybrid sittings due to Covid-19, with a limited number of Members of Parliament assembling physically at the precincts in Cape Town while the rest of the Members joining through a virtual platform. This arrangement will continue until a further decision is made.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
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