Sona: ‘Only president’s address will be entertained’ amid EFF disruption threat_1

There is one item on the agenda for next week’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), and one item only – the president’s address to both houses of parliament, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise said on Thursday.

This after Modise was asked about the prospects of the EFF disrupting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Sona as it had indicated it would do if Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was still in his post.

Modise said there was no behind-the-scenes plan with the EFF to ensure things would run smoothly on the night.

She added any joint sitting would be conducted within the ambit of the rules for joint sittings.

“That is the only thing we’ll entertain.”

Modise said the theme for this year’s Sona was “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.

“The theme underscores the character of a people’s Parliament which the Constitution implores us to entrench and deepen democracy as well as improve the quality of life of all South Africans.

“In addition to making laws, conducting oversight and promoting public participation, Parliament will also continue to strengthen transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the needs of the people to ensure a truly non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.”

Modise said they have been preparing for Sona since last year, adding she was satisfied they were ready.

Sona budget at R2.1m

Part of the preparations includes cost-cutting measures.

“In line with recent SONAs, the dinner for MPs and guests will not take place. We have further reduced costs by withdrawing the junior and civil guard of honour, eminent persons, and the involvement of radio programme winners. This has been done without compromising the public participation aspect of the ceremony,” Modise said.

The advertising and branding budgets have also been considerably reduced.

Next week’s Sona will be the second of the current financial year – the first was held in June following the 2019 elections.

“A total of R7.3m has been budgeted for both events. The June SONA, which also served as the official opening of the sixth democratic Parliament, cost the institution R2.6m. Consistent with the trend over the previous years, indications are that the spending on both the events will be far lesser than the budgeted amount,” said Modise.

The acting secretary of parliament, Baby Tyawa, said they have budgeted R2.1m for this Sona, but she expected they would spend less.

This year’s imbongi will be Masingita Shibambu, also known as Ntombhi Ya Mutsonga, from Matiyani Village in Malamulele, Limpopo, who will recite a poem in Xitsonga.

“Languages for poetry are considered on a rotational basis to give all South African languages a fair and equal opportunity,” Modise said.

There are different categories of guests invited and these include former heads of state, former presiding officers, the diplomatic corps, guests of the president, representatives from civil society, faith-based organisations as well as representatives of statutory and constitutional institutions. There are 2,021 invited guests.

Among the guests, who have confirmed their attendance, are former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, former deputy presidents Baleka Mbete and FW de Klerk and former speaker Frene Ginwala.

Modise said former president Jacob Zuma had been invited but he had not yet indicated whether he would attend or not.

Both houses will debate Ramaphosa’s Sona in a joint sitting over two days on February 18 and 19, with Ramaphosa replying on February 20.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I can confidently say we are ready to host this auspicious event. We have put in the hard work to ensure that it is all systems go,” Modise said.

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