Right from its inception, the South African Parliament adopted a posture of being a People’s Parliament and a pinnacle of the South African democracy. It is a beacon of hope to all South Africans, particularly historically marginalised people. 

It is open and accessible to the people of South Africa, and ensures that its location in Cape Town doesn’t diminish its accessibility. To that end, in the second year of the third Parliament in 2010, the tradition of holding the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the morning was changed to the evening, to ensure that more South Africans have an opportunity to listen to the address.

The President takes the opportunity presented by SONA to announce the government’s priorities for the year. The focus is usually on the following:

  • economic transformation and job creation
  • education, skills and health
  • ensuring the provision of quality basic services
  • spatial integration, human settlements and local government
  • social cohesion and safe communities
  • a capable, ethical and developmental state
  • a better Africa and world.

The list of guests of SONA includes former Presidents and Deputy Presidents, former Presiding Officers of Parliament, the judiciary, Premiers and Speakers of provincial legislatures, the heads of Chapter 9 institutions, religious leaders, business owners, trade unionists, school learners, civil society organisations, traditional leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and the Mayor of Cape Town. The President’s special guests include local and foreign people who have made a positive contribution to society and achieved extraordinary things.

Due to the hybrid nature of this year’s SONA, the event will cost only R2.2 million, a significant saving from previous events. The money saved will be redirected to modernising Parliament’s technological capabilities to enhance its constitutional functions of public participation, oversight and law-making.

The Presiding Officers of Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, emphasised that the SONA’s budget this year will be used for webinar, on providing refreshments in the form of bottled water in the chamber and for boosting ICT capacity and connectivity.

There will be no post-Address dinner for Members of Parliament and guests. The reduction in the event marketing and the advertising budget has also boosted cost containment measures.

The debate on SONA will take place on 18 and 19 February. The President will reply to the debate on 20 February. The debate allows the opposition to give a rebuttal to the President’s speech, while those from the governing party defend the President and government's record and proposals.