The Presiding Officers of Parliament (POs), the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) Ms Thandi Modise, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Mr Amos Masondo, have assured the nation that Parliament will continue to exercise its vigilance in conducting oversight over the Executive as it implements its plans to reduce the rate of infections.

Briefing the media today, the POs said Parliament will heed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call, in his address to the nation on 11 January 2021, where he emphasised that caution should be taken as the new coronavirus variant is infecting people at a rapid rate.

The POs announced that the 2021 State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the joint sitting of Parliament under the theme: “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”, is going to take place on Thursday, February 11 at 19h00 (7 pm).

In strict adherence to the National State of Disaster regulations, this year’s SONA will take the form of a hybrid joint sitting, with at least no more than 50 Members of Parliament, representatives from the Judiciary and the Executive in the physical chamber and the rest of this category will attend virtually. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa will physically deliver the SONA from the National Assembly Chamber at 19h00.

Other categories that will virtually form part of this important event include Premiers, Speakers and other special delegates representing provinces in the NCOP, eminent persons, diplomatic corps, distinguished guests and members of the public.   

Due to the limited number of persons permitted within the precincts of Parliament, and Parliament’s sensitivity to the prevailing conditions, various ceremonial aspects that usually characterise the SONA have been suspended. In this regard, there will be no red carpet and procession of the three arms of the state, physical participation of junior and civil guard of honour, eminent persons, imbongi, military parade that lead the presidential procession onto a saluting dais on the steps of the National Assembly, the guard of honour by the National Ceremonial Guard and the 21-gun salute.

The POs said where possible and appropriate, some of these traditional features shall take place virtually in keeping with the significance and character of the address.

After the delivery of the address by the President, the two Houses will again converge jointly on a hybrid platform to debate the address of the President, over two days, 16 and 17 February. The President will reply to the debate by Members of Parliament on 18 February.

Due to the hybrid nature of this year’s SONA, the event will cost the most minimum of the budget envisaged, which is R2.2 million. The significant savings expected will be redirected to modernising technological capabilities of Parliament to enhance its constitutional functions of public participation, oversight and law-making.

The POs emphasised to members of the media that the money will be used only for webinar, on water in the chamber and for boosting ICT (information and communications technology) capacity and connectivity. On the attendance of the members of the media for the coverage of SONA, the POs said that and other details will be finalised later and be communicated in the last pre-SONA media briefing.

By Mava Lukani
27 January 2021