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Parliament, Friday 7 January 2022 - The Presiding Officers of Parliament met this morning to consider various reports on options available for business continuity for Parliament's work, including the hosting of the State of the Nation Address (SONA). Following a sad and devastating week in which fires that started on Sunday and destroyed Parliament's buildings, including the National Assembly (NA) and sections of the Old Assembly Chamber, we made a solemn undertaking that, despite the devastation of the disaster, we will not allow a situation where Parliament’s work is derailed or disrupted in any manner.

In line with this undertaking, Parliament reaffirms its readiness to host its flagship programme on Thursday, 10 February 2022, at 7 pm.

The fires, which the firefighters battled for over 70 hours, severely damaged the NA building, including the NA chamber, where the official sittings of the NA and Joint Sittings of both Houses of Parliament are usually held, in terms of both the NA and Joint Rules of Parliament. The extensive damage has necessitated the institution to find an alternative venue off-site to host this important event in the parliamentary calendar and the country.

The NA Chamber was a building with great historical significance and rich heritage, and represented the evolution of our Parliament from apartheid to democracy.

It was there that Members of Parliament met to pass laws, take binding decisions, hear important announcements, and host the Joint Sittings of the two Houses of Parliament, the NA and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Parliament must find a suitable venue for the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, to deliver the 2022 SONA. SONA is the only occasion that brings together the three arms of the state, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary under one roof.

The Presiding Officers are grateful to the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town for coming forward with offers for the use of their venues for the business of Parliament. They have offered the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the City Council Chambers and the City Hall.

In this regard, after a great deal of consideration and following a thorough onsite inspections of alternative places, we have decided on the most suitable facility that meets our requirements.

We are pleased to announce that the 2022 SONA will be held at the Cape Town City Hall.

The City Hall was considered a suitable venue technically in terms of infrastructure and its capacity. It is also a befitting place considering its historical significance which is embedded in the minds and hearts of South Africans.

Cape Town's City Hall is the first place where the founding President of our Democratic South Africa, former President Nelson Mandela, addressed the nation after his release from prison on 11 February 1990, with President Cyril Ramaphosa by his side.

Again, on 09 May 1994, the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu introduced Tata Mandela to thousands of jubilant South Africans in the same balcony after his election in the NA as the first democratic President. In this regard, President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation from the City Hall, 32 years since that historic occasion in 1990.

The Hall which was built in 1905, is a historic landmark which is now home to a full-sized statue of Tata Nelson Mandela on its balcony from where he addressed the people for the first time after his release from prison. The statue was installed in 2017. An exhibition inside the City Hall dedicated to Madiba is a permanent feature.

We have ensured that this decision to host the SONA outside the Chamber of the NA, is taken in compliance with the Joint Rules of Parliament that determine where a Joint Sitting may be held.

The President calls this Joint Sitting of the NA and the NCOP annually to deliver SONA in terms of section 42(5) of the Constitution, read with Joint Rule 7 of the Joint Rules of Parliament.

Since it is a Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, the Speaker of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP host the event, which is attended by the three arms of the state.

The Joint Rules also prescribe, amongst others, the venue for the Joint Sitting of Parliament.

Joint Rule 8 states that "Joint sittings are held in the Chamber of the Assembly".
The Rules also adequately provide for the procedures for the sitting and the conduct of Members of Parliament.

Rule 2 of the Joint Rules provide for Unforeseen Matters. In terms of Rule 2(1), the Speaker and the Chairperson, acting jointly, may give a ruling or make a rule in respect of any matter for which the Joint Rules do not provide.

In this regard, a joint rule made by the Speaker and the Chairperson will allow SONA to be held in a venue other than the Chamber of the Assembly. The rule will remain in force until a decision of the Rules Committee is made on such a rule.

Section 2 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act defines the precincts of Parliament as any area of land and every building or part of a building under Parliament's control, including "the chambers in which the proceedings of the Houses are conducted and the galleries and lobbies of the chambers"; and include all other parts of the buildings and committee rooms and other meeting places used for Parliament's business and in connection with the proceedings of Parliament, while so used.

Section 2 (2) provides that "where a House or committee convenes beyond the seat of Parliament, this Act applies as if the premises where the House or committee is sitting were within the precincts of Parliament".

Therefore, section 2 of the Act makes allowances for any business of Parliament to be conducted elsewhere. Section 3 of the Act reinforces that the precinct's control vests with the Speaker and the Chairperson, irrespective of the venue.

The Presiding Officers are looking forward to a successful SONA.

As South Africans we are resilient people, we have overcome many difficulties in the past. Therefore, we will rise from these ashes and rebuild, restore, renew and march forward in our continuous endeavour to build a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society we all aspire.

Once again, we want to thank you members of the media, for all the cooperation during this difficult week and reassure South Africans that no stone will be left unturned to get to the bottom of what transpired this week. The institution's work will continue as planned.

Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo