Parly evening opening 'costly'

2010-01-19 16:02

Cape Town - The decision to hold this year's official opening of Parliament in the evening will be a very costly break with tradition, African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe warned on Tuesday.

"The ACDP believes the opening of Parliament at night is going to be a very costly exercise, impacting on security, transport for staff and overtime pay," he said in a statement.

It also broke a 16-year tradition.

Meshoe called on President Jacob Zuma to "fully explain" the reason for his delivering his state-of-the-nation address at 19:00 on Thursday, February 11.

The date is the 20th anniversary of the release from prison of former president Nelson Mandela.

Parliament traditionally opens on a Friday morning, with the president's speech to a joint sitting of the houses of the legislature starting at 11:00.

People of the light, not night

Meshoe said the ACDP believed Parliament should be opened during normal business hours, as happened all over the world.

"We are not people of the night, but we are the people of the light.

"This last-minute decision has been taken unilaterally by the ANC without interaction with either party whips or the public as to the benefits or disadvantages."

The reason given - that it would enable workers and school children to watch the proceeding live on TV - was not convincing.

"The ACDP calls on the president to be transparent in this matter and fully explain the reasoning behind this impulsive change of what has been the tradition since the first democratic parliament."

Meshoe said the opening ceremony and the address could be held during the day, and rebroadcast that evening.

"The government is again being wasteful and extravagant in their expenditure," he said.