Parliament’s Presiding Officers have confirmed the institution’s readiness to host the 2020 State of the Nation Address (Sona), which will be delivered by the President next Thursday evening, 13 February 2020. “Parliament has been preparing for Sona since last year and 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 next week”, National Assembly Speaker Ms Thandi Modise told the media today at a pre-Sona briefing.

She also announced that the theme for this year’s Sona is the same as that of the sixth Parliament: Following up on our commitments: making your future work better. A few days before Sona, South Africa celebrates the 30th anniversary of former president Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Madiba’s values of peace, forgiveness, compassion and human dignity will guide Parliament’s programme for the year, Ms Modise announced.

The Speaker said 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.

Various categories of people have been invited to Sona, including former heads of state and presiding officers, members of the diplomatic corps, guests of the President, representatives from civil society and faith-based organisations, and representatives from statutory and constitutional institutions. Some of the invited guest who have already confirmed their attendance include former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, former deputy president FW de Klerk, as well as former speakers of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete and Dr Frene Ginwala.

Ms Modise also announced that Sona’s budget has been reduced this year, in line with the trend in recent years to reduce the amount of public funds spent on the event. This has resulted in the withdrawal of the civil guards of honour and eminent persons, and the involvement of the radio programme winners. However, Ms Modise made assurances that: “We remain vigilant and sensitive to the economic challenges we face and therefore the budget for Sona has been carefully designed to ensure that key features of the ceremony are retained.”

Sona is called by the President in terms of Section 42(5) of the Constitution. The address is an opportunity for the President to provide the nation with an update on government’s progress in meeting its commitments and outlining the programmes for the new financial year. It is a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, and is presided over jointly by the National Assembly Speaker and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo.

The only item on the joint sitting’s agenda is the President’s speech. Following the address, Members of Parliament will debate it in another joint sitting on 18 and 19 February. This will be followed in turn by the President’s reply a day later.

Sona will be broadcast live on radio and TV, and will be streamed live on Parliament’s website, DTSV (channel 408) and YouTube.

Sakhile Mokoena
6 February 2020