The Presiding Officers of Parliament have confirmed the national legislature’s readiness to host the 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA), which will be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday evening at the Cape Town City Hall.

Since Cape Town City Hall was declared part of the parliamentary precinct for the purpose of the sitting, all laws and joint rules shall apply to the sitting as if it was held in the National Assembly chamber.

“The City Hall is now officially a precinct of Parliament, as per the definition of the precincts of Parliament provided for in Section 2 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. In addition to the State of the Nation Address, the hall will also host the two-day debate on the President’s address by the joint sitting of the Houses, the reply to the debate by the President and the Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance on February 22,” said the Presiding Officers in a statement.

The Presiding Officers also revealed the theme for the 2023 SONA, which is consistent with the theme of the sixth Parliament, “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”. Furthermore, all attendees, including MPs and invited guests, will be physically present in the chamber and the public gallery. Approximately 490 Members of Parliament and representatives of South African Local Government Association will be accommodated on the floor of the chamber, while 263 guests representing various sectors of our society will be accommodated in the public gallery of the hall.

SONA is called by the President in terms of the Constitution in order to give the nation an update on progress on government commitments while outlining government’s programme of action for the new financial year. It is a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, and is presided over jointly by the Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP. The only item on the agenda is the President’s speech.

Members of Parliament will then debate the address in a joint sitting over two days, 14 and 15 February, which will be followed by the President’s reply a day later. SONA will be broadcast live on radio and TV as well as streamed live on Parliament’s website, DTSV channel (408) and YouTube channel.

The Presiding Officers also confirmed that this year’s SONA proceedings will follow the full ceremony format. Activities undertaken and observed during a full ceremony include the 21-gun salute, an aircraft flypast, the lining of the route, the ceremonial guard, the salute of the step guard, the singing of the national anthem, the full military band and the ceremonial processions of the provincial Speakers, Premiers, the judiciary, the Deputy President and the President.

The President will take a salute at the platform set up in front of the statue of Madiba, which is on the balcony of the City Hall, where he will observe the singing of the national anthem by the South African National Defence Force military band, synchronised with the 21-gun salute and flypast.

Parliament is expecting over 260 invited guests and some of those who have already confirmed their attendance include former President Thabo Mbeki, former Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Baleka Mbete, former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya and the Mayor of Cape Town, Mr Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Other dignitaries who have confirmed are the Pan African Parliament President Chief Fortune Charumbira, Speaker of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan Ms Sahiba Gafarova and the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Africa Region, Ms Catherine Hara.

The role of the imbongi in the SONA programme has been an important feature of this key state event since 1994 and remains crucial to the celebration of our cultural diversity and social cohesion. The imbongi is selected in conjunction with the provincial legislatures and the language in which the praise song is rendered is determined on a rotational basis to ensure all languages are afforded equal importance. 

For this SONA, isiZulu praise singer Mr Msawenkosi Duma from KwaZulu-Natal will usher the President into the chamber.

The POs also announced that they will initiate discussions with Parliament and engage all stakeholders regarding the possibility of naming the new National Assembly building, which will be constructed during this year, after the first Speaker in our democratic Parliament, Dr Frene Ginwala.

Other confirmed guests include 10 cricket captains of Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies, President of Cricket South Africa, Chairman of the Cricket South Africa Board, Chairperson of the Netball World Cup Board, President of the Netball South Africa, Head Coach of Netball South Africa, Captain of the Netball South Africa (SPAR Proteas) and the Captain of Banyana-Banyana.