For the first time in the history of South Africa’s constitutional democracy, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) will take place outside the regular precincts of Parliament in Cape Town.
“From today until 17 February 2022, this majestic City Hall will fall under the control of Parliament as per the definition of the precincts of Parliament provided for in Section 2 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act,” Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Monday.
Addressing the official hand over of the Cape Town City Hall to Parliament’s Presiding Officers, Mapisa-Nqakula said the Act amongst others, defines the precinct of parliament as any area of land, every building or part of a building used for parliament’s business and in connection with the proceedings of parliament under parliament’s control.
The handover was done with Parliament’s Presiding Officers — Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Amos Masondo.
This follows a decision by the Presiding Officers to use the City Hall as an alternative off-site venue for hosting the State of the Nation Address after a devastating fire that destroyed Parliament’s buildings, including the National Assembly (NA) and sections of the Old Assembly Chamber on 2 January 2022.
“We have found the City Hall to be the most suitable facility, meeting all of the parliamentary requirements regarding infrastructure and capacity. It was also an affordable option as the Mayor has promised us that parliament would not make payments to conduct its business.
“This hall has rich history that links our past colonial apartheid era and our present democratic dispensation. The hall, which was built in the early 1900 and has for years served as one of the colonial symbols of the Cape Colony has now become our proud heritage and a symbol of our collective hopes, aspirations and freedoms,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
She said the hall is a historic landmark of South Africa’s journey as a people towards a democratic transition and a free society.
“… It is indeed one of the critical milestones of Madibas long walk to freedom. We have thus come full circle, 32 years since our historical occasion on 11 February 1990 when he [President Cyril Ramaphosa] stood by President Nelson Mandela,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
President Ramaphosa will deliver the SONA to the nation from this very City Hall on 10 February 2022.
“As the Mayor officially hands over the Cape Town City Hall to Parliament, it will officially become the precinct of Parliament of South Africa until 17 February 2022,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Executive Mayor of Cape Town Geordin Hill-Lewis said the City Hall building was inaugurated in July 1905.
“It’s a magnificent building and over the years it has undergone some renovations and upgrades. Our city has preserved the artefacts of the building. We have the original key that was cast for these main doors.
“The keys have been kept in storage for 117 years and our city archivist got the key out of storage and it’s our pleasure to do the Symbolic handover with the original key for the use of parliament,” Hill-Lewis said.