This year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) will cost R2 million less than it did in the previous year, Parliament’s presiding officers announced on today.
The event, where it is expected President Jacob Zuma will outline the progress made by his administration over the past five years and also reveal government’s service delivery plans over the coming year, will take place in Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday.
Briefing journalists, Parliament’s presiding officers also said they were ready to host President Zuma and all invited guests on Thursday, 13 February.
Baby Tyawa, the Acting Secretary of Parliament, said while this year’s event was bigger in the sense that the two houses also had separate programmes to organise celebrations commemorating 20 years of democracy, the budget for all SONA activities -- including a post-SONA Presidential banquet -- stood at R5.7 miilon.
She said this year’s banquet would be held at the Cape Town Convention Centre, meaning millions or rands will be saved compared to last year, where they had to erect a marquee tent and bus all the guests to a venue.
“In terms of our books, we will be spending R2 million less. In addition to that, I think the Speaker [Max Sisulu] did talk about convenience. When you go to a tent, you also have to bus people, and that is also extra costs,” she said.
Tyawa said they cut costs to also heed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's call for the administration to cut expenditure and to curb abuse of taxpayer’s funds.
20 Years of Democratic Parliament
Meanwhile, Mninwa Mahlangu, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), said Parliament will use Thursday’s SONA to see how it can enhance its oversight programme and how to best involve members of the public in the coming year.
When President Zuma steps up to deliver his last SONA of the current administration, the two houses of Parliament – the NCOP and the National Assembly (NA) - will also reflect on how they have fared in their role in democratic South Africa over the past 20 years.
Mahlangu said this year’s SONA would also be a bittersweet event, as it will be the first of its nature that former President Nelson Mandela, who passed away in December last year, is not around to witness.
“Our theme for this year – ‘20 years of democratic Parliament’ – reflects a milestone in our democracy.
“The theme aims to capture the essence of Parliament’s focus in exercising its responsibilities.
“The address by the President provides Parliament with the opportunity to enhance its oversight responsibility, to identify key aspects of this oversight programme for the coming year and to plan how to facilitate public involvement in this,” he said.
Mahlangu also said Parliament was more than ready to host all its guests.
“Our plans in this regard started late last year and we are at a point where we can say, with confidence, that all is on track with regard to our preparations,” he said.
Mahlangu said since 2014 was also an election year, a second SONA would take place after the new President has been inaugurated, and said a date would be announced after the inauguration.
The address will be broadcast live on TV and radio stations from 7pm on Thursday in all official languages.
Mahlangu said there will be a debate on SONA on 18 and 19 February in Parliament, followed by Zuma’s reply to the debate on 20 February.
The debate will be streamed live on Parliament’s website and its YouTube channel, and would be broadcast on the Parliamentary DSTV TV channel