Zuma scrambles MPs’ plans

2014-06-10 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Some MPs had to cancel their flights and book new seats when they learnt on the news yesterday that President Jacob Zuma would give his State of the Nation Address two days earlier than scheduled.

By yesterday afternoon the political parties had still not officially been informed that the address, which was scheduled for June 19, will now be given on Tuesday.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said MPs had already made travel and accommodation arrangements for themselves and their partners — all of which now had to be changed. “This is really an inconvenience for us. The date of June 19 for the State of the Nation Address was communicated to us from the first day. I had to read about the new date in the newspaper. This is remarkably poor communication on the side of the ANC,” Steenhuisen said.

Corné Mulder, chief whip of the Freedom Front Plus, also said his party was totally uninformed about this “unconsidered and selfish” change. “On the contrary, we received text messages last Thursday to remind us the State of the Nation is on the 19th and will be followed by a cocktail function.”

He received news of the earlier address on a news bulletin. “This is bad for everyone because new flight arrangements have to be made, especially because it is a day after a long weekend. The planes will be packed,” Mulder predicted.

But IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the changed date was “not a train smash at this stage”, because the June 19 date was only a proposal.

ANC spokesperson Moloto Motapho also do not foresee a lot of inconvenience stemming from the move. He said Parliament would have been in session and MPs would have had to be in Cape Town on Tuesday anyway.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj confirmed Zuma had requested the earlier date for the State of the Nation Address because he must attend the very important African Union heads of state meeting in Equatorial Guinea from June 20 to 27.

Maharaj said the decision to move the date was taken purely because of this schedule.

The debate on the address will now take place on June 18 and 19. Zuma will give his reply on June 20.

Parliamentary spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said the earlier date will not impact the logistical arrangements around the State of the Nation Address much.

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