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It’s all about SONA 2023

Annisa Essack | kzn@radioislam.org.za
7 February 2023 | 14:30 PM CAT
4 min read

Photo Credit: Parliament

Once again, Parliament is abuzz with activity as the preparations for the State of the Nation Address are in full swing. President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his seventh Opening of Parliament this week.

It’s one of the President’s most important speeches any year, granting him a tremendous PR opportunity with a prime-time television and social media audience.

Many government officials – including policy advisors, researchers, and speechwriters – collaborated with outside advisors and thinkers on the speech, traditionally shaped by the Forum of Director-Generals, ANC’s January 8th Statement, NEC Lekgotla, and Cabinet Lekgotla.

The target audience consists of constituencies, such as MPs, citizens, trade unions, business leaders, foreign investors, foreign governments, and credit rating agencies.

Monday saw the National Assembly Speaker swearing in new members, including the incoming Deputy President of the Republic. That afternoon, a special joint sitting was convened to pay tribute to the first National Assembly Speaker in democratic South Africa.

With power cuts disrupting the daily lives of South Africans, Parliament has taken all steps necessary to ensure that Thursday’s State of the Nation Address would not be disrupted by load shedding.

Cape Town City Hall will play host to 490 members of Parliament, as well as 263 guests, which include dignitaries like former president Thabo Mbeki and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS OR SONA? 

The State of the Nation Address is an annual event on the parliamentary calendar that allows the President of our nation to address members of government and citizens of the country on the government’s plans for the year ahead.

The President delivers his speech at a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

The address is also known as the “Opening of Parliament” or SONA.

The three Arms of the State, viz., the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary will be in attendance.

WHEN & WHERE DOES SONA TAKE PLACE?

According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, Section 84 (2)(d), read with Rule 7 (1)(a) of the Joint Rules of Parliament, the President must call for the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

This year, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, will deliver the State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 9th February 2023, at 19:00, at the Cape Town City Hall.

The National Assembly Chambers are the usual venue for the SONA. However, the chamber caught fire on 2nd January 2022, and the Executive Authority of Parliament decided on an alternate venue.

The Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces will jointly preside over the address.

WILL CITIZENS BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE OR BE INVOLVED IN SONA?  

Although only parliamentarians and a handful of citizens are invited to attend the SONA, the public can participate by sending recommendations to the President in the lead-up to SONA using #SONA2023 on Twitter or via the Parliament of RSA Facebook page. To further participate, the public can watch the SONA live on Parliament TV and listen on all SABC radio stations and YouTube.

WHY IS SONA IMPORTANT?

It grants the Executive government an opportunity to account to Parliament and the South African public.

An essential function of Parliament is to monitor and oversee the government’s actions. SONA is a part of the oversight or monitoring function to improve service delivery and quality of life for all who call South Africa home.

It is also about celebrating our nation and nation-building.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING SONA?

It is an opportunity for the President to address the nation as Head of State and Government about the government’s planned priorities for the year ahead. The address will also include the achievements and challenges of the previous year.

The entire SONA ceremony comprises a ceremonial Military Guard of Honour, a military band, a 21-gun salute, and the South African Air Force flies past while the President takes the national salute.

The official language for the SONA 2023 is isiZulu, and the KwaZulu Natal province will usher the President into the City Hall with a praise singer in attendance.

The late Dr Frene Ginwala, the first Speaker of the democratic National Assembly, will be honoured with a candle-lighting vigil and the signing of a book of condolence.

THE BUDGET & SONA

Two weeks after SONA, Enoch Godongwana, the Minister of Finance, will introduce the budget for the coming year based on the government’s priorities as set out by the President in his speech.

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