Parliament, Thursday 1 February 2018 - The 2018 State of the Nation Address comes at a special time – the centenary anniversary of the birth of our first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela. In paying homage to the life and legacy of this remarkable South African and father of our nation who is revered around the world, Parliament has decided that the theme that will inspire and guide its work during the year 2018 shall be: “Making your future work better - learning from Madiba”.

In his historic inaugural State of the Nation Address on 24 May, following the first democratic elections, former President Nelson Mandela remarked: “The government I have the honour to lead and, I dare say the masses, who elected us to serve in this role, are inspired by the single vision of creating a people-centred society. The acid test of the legitimacy of the programmes we elaborate, the government institutions we create, the legislation we adopt must be whether they serve these objectives.”

Madiba’s words resonate with Parliament’s Constitutional responsibility to ensure government for the people by the people, to pass quality laws that improve the material conditions of our people, ensure meaningful public participation and hold the executive to account without fear, favour or prejudice. Inspired by the noble principles, values and ideals for which Madiba stood, Parliament will intensify its endeavors to build a better, non-sexist, truly non-racial and prosperous future for all South Africans - particularly the poor. This year’s theme underscores the renewed vigour with which Parliament will discharge its constitutional function and it is a battle cry behind which South Africans are being rallied towards achieving the common goal of building a better South Africa.

The annual State of the Nation Address, which takes place at a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, is an opportunity for the President to assess South Africa’s domestic and international situation and to present plans for achieving our goal of a better life for all. The Address enables Parliament to align and gear its plans towards efforts of deepening South Africa’s developmental trajectory, as the year the begins.

The State of the Nation Address, scheduled for Thursday 8 February 2018, is a key event on our country’s calendar. It is a special occasion when all three arms of the state - the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature - come together under one roof.

The State of the Nation Address is called by the President in terms of the Constitution, through the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, when the President writes to them to request a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. The scheduling is then ratified by the Joint Programme Committee.

The advent of democracy in 1994 saw Parliament opening its doors to all South Africans in line with the Constitutional principles of participatory democracy, openness and transparency. As a flagship programme of Parliament, the State of the Nation Address became a genuine representation of the South African public and its diversity. It became a celebration of our nation, with a wide range of the sectors of society forming an integral part of the ceremonial state activities.

The Address will be a full ceremonial occasion once again – involving a ceremonial parade exhibiting military traditions, drills and ethos of the army, the navy and the air force of the Republic of South Africa. This includes a national salute by the Ceremonial Guard of the South African National Defence Force, a military band, a salute flight by the South African Air Force and a 21-gun salute.

Processions on the red carpet from the Slave Lodge to the National Assembly building will reflect the three arms of the state – the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. The civilian participation lining the red carpet from the Slave Lodge to the saluting dais in front of the National Assembly building will be a Junior Guard of Honour of 100 learners from secondary schools in the Western Cape Winelands, a Civil Guard of Honour consisting of 100 representatives from three civil society organisations working with women and children and survivors of gender-based violence (Saartjie Baartman in Athlone, St Anne’s in Woodstock and Liefdesnessie in Bredasdorp) and nine Eminent Persons, selected by Provincial Legislatures in recognition of their contribution to our democracy.

A total of 1 120 guests have been invited to form part of this important occasion. They are drawn from all sectors of society, including youth, women, representatives of statutory and Constitutional institutions (such as the Chapter 9 institutions supporting democracy ), international organisations, Heads of Foreign Mission (the diplomatic corps), representatives of the House of Traditional Leaders, the Mayor of Cape Town, representatives from civil society organisations, religious bodies, state-owned enterprises, business and trade organisations, trade union federations, academic and research institutions.

As before, former Presiding Officers of Parliament and former Presidents have been invited and so have the current heads of the Pan African Parliament and the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum.

We have also invited seven prominent South Africans and Parliament will also host the winners of a national radio competition on the State of the Nation Address. The competition will be broadcast on nine SABC radio stations – one in each province - in eight official languages.

The joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council Provinces at which the President will deliver the Address is a special sitting, with only one item on the agenda - the State of the Nation Address. As it is a practice, rules and conventions applicable to joint sittings will apply. The maintenance of order during the joint sitting and in the Parliamentary precinct is the sole responsibility of the Presiding Officers.

On behalf of Parliament, the Presiding Officers note the risks associated with the water crisis of the Western Cape - Cape Town, in particular - and its potential impact on the State of the Nation Address. Discussions are ongoing between the Department of Public works and other stakeholders to ensure that any potential negative impact is averted.

The budget for the State of the Nation Address since 2014 has progressively decreased. This is in keeping with Parliament’s commitment to prudent use of public money, bearing in mind the hardship of unemployment, which so many of our people endure.

In 2014, when there were two State of the Nation Addresses, the amount budgeted was R9 230 000 and the actual spend was R6 356 000.

In 2015 the budgeted amount was R4 098 000 and actual spend was R3 156 000. In 2016, the budgeted amount was R3 946 000 and actual spend was R 2 032 000. In 2017 the budgeted amount was R4 000 000 and actual spend was R2 270 000. For this year’s State of the Nation Address we have budgeted R4 300 000. As with the preceding years cited, we expect actual spend to be well below this. A key feature in bringing costs down has been the abandonment of a post State of the Nation Address dinner.

The Address will be broadcast live on radio and television and at public viewing sites in provinces. We appreciate the continued media interest in the Address. About 1 000 members of the media applied for accreditation this time. They represent about 140 local, international, major national and community print, broadcast and online media.

Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo 082 370 6930