Tuesday’s postponement of the State of the Nation address threw arrangements for one of Cape Town’s annual showpiece events into turmoil.
Booked-up hotels and airlines braced themselves for a spate of cancellations‚ and the security operation surrounding Thursday’s event was put on hold.
The City of Cape Town’s executive director for safety and security‚ Richard Bosman‚ said the postponement would not affect the city council.
Extensive road closures and security measures would simply be shifted to the new date when it was announced‚ he said.
City council spokesman Maxine Jordaan said rehearsals for Sona‚ due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday‚ had been postponed until further notice.
In his request to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete for the postponement of Sona‚ DA leader Mmusi Maimane said it was an R11-million occasion.
But the economic impact is much greater‚ with diplomats‚ businesspeople and others flying to Cape Town for the event and spending millions on hotels and entertainment.
The postponement also casts doubt over State of the Province addresses around the country‚ which traditionally follow the Sona.
Premier Helen Zille‚ for example‚ is due to give the Western Cape speech on Friday February 16‚ and legislature speaker Sharna Fernandez said the timing would be a matter for further discussion.
Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen said the impact of the postponed Sona on Cape Town businesses should be assessed by comparing it to the impact if it had gone ahead.
“It is not an event that is attended by thousands of people. I am not sure about the exact number but most probably a thousand or two‚” said Booysen.
“It doesn’t have a massive impact and no doubt that there would be catering that will be affected. I think business will survive that.
“Of course there are implications such as flight and accommodation bookings that might not be refunded in full. But I think in the overall scheme of things it averted the chaos that could have been given the uncertainty around the issue of President Zuma.”
Jess Rosenberg‚ chairman of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa in the Western Cape‚ said the postponement affected the hotel and catering sectors in one of their busiest weeks.
“Traditionally this is a very busy week in the city as Sona coincides with the Mining Indaba. As such‚ the city is filled not only with ministers and diplomats‚ but also with international delegates attending the mining conference‚” he said.
“It is very difficult for us to pinpoint exactly how many delegates are in the city at this time‚ but from previous experience normally thousands.”
Rosenberg said Fedhasa would advise its members not to refund Sona guests “but to rather hold on to the deposits as a credit towards the new Sona 2018 date‚ which is yet to be confirmed”.
Angie du Plooy‚ membership sales executive at Atlantic Beach Country Club in Melkbosstrand‚ said it had been told Friday’s presidential golf challenge in aid of the Jacob Zuma Education Trust would go ahead as planned.