The Presiding Officers of Parliament today (Tuesday) held a press briefing to outline the state of readiness for the State of the Nation Address (Sona) scheduled for Thursday evening.

In a joint statement read by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the leadership of the national legislature reaffirmed a decision taken last month that this year’s Sona will be held at the Cape Town City Hall, following the fire that ravaged parts Parliament and completely destroyed the NA chambers.

“For the first time in the history of our democratic government, this Sona, the debate thereon and reply by the President thereto will take place outside of the precincts of Parliament,” the Speaker said.

She said the decision to host the Sona outside Parliament is taken in compliance with the Joint Rules of Parliament and Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures.

Since The Cape Town City Hall was declared part of the parliamentary precinct from 31 January until 16 February 2022, all laws and joint rules shall apply to the Joint Sitting.

The Presiding Officers also revealed the theme for the 2022 Sona, which is consistent with the theme of the 6th Parliament: “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.

“This theme reinforces the character of a people's Parliament and the spirit of the Constitution, which enjoins us to entrench and deepen democracy, and improve the quality of life of all South Africans,” said the Speaker.

The Presiding officers also announced: “In keeping with the character of this institution as an African Parliament that promotes the centuries-old cultural traditions of our nation, an Imbongi (praise singer) will usher in the President into the Chamber with a poem.

The selected Imbongi for this year’s Sona is Mr Mosimanegape Jeremiah Jason, and he will recite his poem in SeTswana. The 31-year-old Jason is from Taung, in the North-West Province. Languages for poetry are considered rotationally to give South African languages a fair and equal opportunity. The selection process involves recommendations by provincial legislatures, upon which a determination is made.

In keeping with government regulations to manage the spread of Covid-19, a total of 298 MPs will be seated in the chamber, while a limited number of representatives of other arms of state, spheres of government, dignitaries and media will be allowed in the gallery.

The proportional representation of political parties was a key consideration in allocating seats to MPs. The National Assembly will be physically represented by 238 MPs, whilst the NCOP will have 75 delegates, including provincial Premiers and SALGA representatives.

Responding to media questions on whether any special security arrangements have put in place for possible disruption of Sona, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Mr Amos Masondo said: “We are not anticipating any disruptions, everything possible will be done for Sona to happen in a positive way, we will ensure that all goes well.”

Parliament has invited former presidents and former presiding officers, and confirmations have been received from former President Thabo Mbeki, former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Speakers Ms Baleka Mbete, Mr Max Sisulu and Ms Frene Ginwala.

“We can confidently say that we are ready to host this important event. With crisis comes opportunities; and we hope that this event will go down history as another proud moment for our nation, notwithstanding the circumstances under which it is being held”, the Speaker said.

Sakhile Mokoena
8 February 2022