SONA 2020: Six things that aren’t allowed during the speech_1

Here we are on SONA eve. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for political buffs, as the annual event boasts everything from politicians going at it “tongs and hammer”, to the red carpet glitz and glamour. However, all is not well in the chambers of Parliament – and Thursday could be a very uneasy day for President Ramaphosa.

SONA latest: What is a point of order?


Parliament has already got their invites muddled-up: After claiming that Jacob Zuma would be in attendance at the National Assembly, they have since back-tracked. We’ve also got the EFF threatening to disrupt proceedings from minute one: But what does the Constitution say about their organised chaos?


Generally speaking, planned protests are not allowed in Parliament. But even during SONA, a “point of order” can be raised. This is the term used by MPs when they want to flag someone else for breaking the rules of Parliament. For example, a point of order can be raised if a politician makes a false statement about someone else while addressing the rest of the house.

SONA 2020: Are the EFF allowed to disrupt the speech?


The EFF have permission to interrupt the president if they believe he has failed on a point of order. But usually, this is only used as a frivilous gateway to tirades and rants about whichever president is in charge. We’ve seen it with Jacob Zuma, and it’s set to hit Cyril Ramaphosa. But what happens when order cannot be restored, and those who have risen on a point of order carry on? Well, as Constitutionally Speaking put it:


“If the MP so identified refuses to leave, the Speaker must invoke Rule 14GA to restore order. This rule requires the Speaker first to instruct the “Serjeant-at-Arms or the Usher to remove the member from the Chamber and the precincts of Parliament”.
“If the Serjeant-at-Arms or the Usher is unable in person to remove the MP, the Speaker may call upon the Parliamentary Protection Services to assist in removing the member from the Chamber and the precincts of Parliament. No MP may, in any manner at all, physically intervene in or block the removal of another MP.”Cosntittutionally Speaking

What are you banned from doing during SONA 2020?


We’re going to file the above under “hassling the president without a suitable point of order”. It’s the first of the six major things people inside Parliament are banned from doing during SONA. The rules mainly apply to politicians, but can also extend to guests of the house, media reporters and those sat watching in the gallery. The other five no-nos are as follows:

Refer to an MP by their first name, or even “nickname”

Joint Rule 140: If President Ramaphosa – or one of his detractors – was to make a point about a specific politician in the house without calling them “Honourable [Surname]”, that’d be a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Use “unbecoming” language

Joint Rule 14P: No-one in the house is allowed to use offensive language, or terms that are “unbecoming” of elected officials during the SONA speech

Talk or converse inappropriately with other MPs

Joint Rule 14B: The president’s speech demands the full attention of the house. MPs can report anyone in the house for talking too loud while Ramaphosa is delivering his address. Just like school rules.

Make a comment on legal matters that are still subject to a court judgement

Joint Rule 14Q: If a judicial matter is “sub judice”, it cannot be mentioned during the SONA event. Comments about the person involved and opinions on certain cases are prohibited. For example, both Cyril Ramaphosa and Busisiwe Mkhwebane are awaiting a result from their court showdown – bringing this case up would be “sub judice”, and therefore, becomes a banned subject for the evening.

Criticise the Public Protector, Chief Justice or any serving judges

Joint Rule 14J: Staying on a similar theme, no Member of Parliament is allowed to put members of Chapter 9 Institutions on blast, nor can they settle scores with judges or legal guardians. Again, Mkhwebane is off-limits.