To download the soundbite of the Spokesperson of Parliament on this statement, click: https://iono.fm/e/1153213
Parliament, Monday, 7 February 2022 – Parliament notes the decision of the EFF to abandon its declaratory and interdictory relief application to have all members of Parliament physically present during the State of the Nation Address(SONA).
The application, which was launched as a matter of urgency in the Western Cape High Court, followed a decision by Parliament to hold a hybrid SONA at the Cape Town City Hall with a limited number of MPs attending physically due to amongst others, Covid-19 restrictions, health concerns and budgetary constraints.
As a matter of fact and law, the EFF was incorrect to assert, in its founding affidavit, that MPs have a legal right to be physically present at SONA because the Rules of Parliament allow for both virtual and physical attendance of sittings. Due to the format of SONA, it is not necessary that MPs attend in person as there are no deliberations, and MPs are not given the opportunity to put questions to the President.
Parliament has, since the inception of the national state of disaster, adapted in the way it functions. It has adopted rules for both normal and joint sittings of both Houses, which now make allowance for hybrid formats. EFF did not challenge these rules, but instead, it sought relief which clearly contravened the rules.
The relief which was sought by the EFF was also in direct contravention of the Covid-19 regulations. It must be noted that the country is still under a state of disaster; therefore, permitting all members to physically be present may affect their constitutional right to health and safety. This is a risk that Parliament, as a national legislature, is not prepared to take.
Parliament received the news of EFF’s decision to abandon its application as a welcome development given the circumstances in which this SONA is being held.
Parliament regrets that this act by the EFF almost derailed the focus from the SONA and wishes to state categorically that plans are well in place for the successful hosting of the SONA 2022, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 10 February.
ISSUED BY PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
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