No room at the trough: Indaba palaver kicks MPs to the kerb

Members of Parliament and other dignitaries will this year be served their five-course meal from a tent in a parking lot after the normal venue for the post-State of the Nation Address banquet was double-booked.

The chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mninwa Mahlangu, told journalists on Tuesday that while Parliament had confirmed the fancy Cape Town International Convention Centre last year, they were recently told that it would be impossible to get the venue ready in time for the dinner.

“The problem that we face, quite late in the day, is that — all of a sudden we were told that the Mining Indaba is being held there.

“The problem is that they were supposed to finish at about 3pm (on Thursday) so that we can have the dinner in the evening, but we were then told that to break the area where they are holding the meeting, that process would be completed at 12 midnight.”

Mahlangu said while they have looked at alternative venues, they decided on the parking area across the street from Parliament.

The area is a construction site, but Mahlangu added that engineers have given them a go-ahead to erect a marquee in it.

National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu tried to put a positive spin to the development, saying it was “a blessing in disguise”.

“The parking lot is much nearer, anybody can walk and instead of bussing people through they can walk for themselves to the dinner. It’s also cost effective (as) we own the parking lot. In a sense, it’s a venue that is ideal, convenient and cheap for us and it’s something that we would want to repeat,” said Sisulu.

The projected budget for the entire State of the Nation “event” is about R6-million, but final costs will be confirmed after everything has been done.

While the two presiding officers couldn’t say what their expectations of President Jacob Zuma’s speech were, Sisulu, who is a member of the ANC’s powerful national executive committee hinted that there will be more talk about job creation.

“We suspect that the president’s speech will cover three things—jobs, jobs, jobs.
Turning the tide against unemployment, and the need to grow the economy.”

The theme of this year’s event is the knowledge economy and development opportunities.

Sisulu said the theme was chosen because South Africa is leading a consortium of nine African countries in a bid to be a site for the world’s most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

In a statement, Parliament said: By adopting the theme for 2012, the legislature will be giving greater focus to government programmes and strategies to develop knowledge production and dissemination.

“The other thing that we are not doing very well at, at the moment, is education. Which is why the theme is about knowledge—education is about knowledge,” added Sisulu.

Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk have confirmed they will be attending.

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