CAPE TOWN – Replies to parliamentary questions have revealed that this year’s state-of-the-nation address (Sona) by President Jacob Zuma has reached an astonishing R11 million, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.
On February 2, secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana told media that R4 million had been budgeted for the event, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said.
“However, replies to written questions to the ministers of police and public works revealed that their departments spent a further R4.085 million and R2.7 million, respectively,” he said.
“The department of state security avoided answering the question, as is their habit, claiming that their enormous deployment to the event ‘came from the normal operational budget of the [State Security] Agency’. The DA will submit an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to get a clear picture of SSA resources dedicated to the event and why.”
Adding the R204,153.60 spent on deploying 441 members of the South African National Defence Force “to maintain law and order during the opening of Parliament” reveals that this year’s Sona cost at least R10,989,188.
“This eye-watering amount could have been better spent on initiatives to create jobs, provide skills and training, or on education for young South Africans.
The “hidden” cost of Sona not only revealed how much the increasing securitisation and militarisation of the event was costing South Africans; it also made a mockery of Mgidlana’s comments that Sona was “about the president and members of the public interacting with the speech being made”.
“The sad reality is that Sona is no longer accessible to ordinary members of the public; however, they are expected to stump up more and more every year for a compromised president facing a hostile Parliament.”
The DA would keep probing the real cost of Sona 2017 and, once calculated, reveal how many millions was spent on having “a paranoid president deliver a speech to his own caucus”, Steenhuisen said.
– African News Agency (ANA)