9 things to know ahead of #SONA2018
1. What is the SONA?
It is an annual address given by the President to a joint session of Parliament. It is designed to be a report on the economic and social state of the nation, and includes a review of the past year and priorities for the current year. This is a special and unique occasion where all three arms of the state are in the same place together.
2. Time and place
SONA will be delivered on Friday, February 16 at 19:00. Since 2010, the SONA has been delivered in the evening to give more South Africans an opportunity to listen to the address. The setting is the same as always: the National Assembly Chamber.
SONA 2018 is the same year as the centenary anniversary of the birth of our late President and icon, Nelson Mandela. Therefore the theme this year is “Making Your Future Work Better – Learning From Madiba”.
4. What will the President say?
The speech will seek to build on the ruling party’s January 8 statement. The speech should be heavy on economic issues (reigniting growth) and focus on achieving radical socio- economic transformation to uplift the poor and the working class. The speech will be delivered against the background of persistent unemployment and inequality, widespread corruption, a weakened economy, a water crisis, access to higher education challenges and problems weighing down state-owned companies. The President is expected to talk to these challenges and set out his administration’s vision, priorities and programmes for the forthcoming year.
5. Who are the key guests at the State of the Nation Address?
Guests include 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.
This year, some of the special guests will include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Rapelang Rabana, Zanele Muholi, Casper Nyovest, Nomfundo Mahlangeni, Demi-Leigh Nel Peters. In total, 1 120 guests have been invited. As the National Assembly gallery can only accommodate 720 people, the overflow are accommodated in other parts of the parliamentary precinct.
The budget for SONA 2018 is set at R4.3 million. However based on previous years the actual spend is expected to be lower than this amount. Parliament will further save costs by once again not hosting a banquet dinner after the Address.
7. When do political parties get to respond to the SONA?
The debate on the State of the Nation Address is scheduled for 19 February and the reply by the President is set for 20 February.
8. What is the format of the ceremony?
The ceremony involves a mounted police escort and a military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the President’s route to Parliament by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), cultural performances along the route, a praise singer at the entrance to the National Assembly Chamber, a national salute by the Ceremonial Guard of the SANDF, a military band, a salute flight by the South African Air Force and a 21-gun salute. It also includes civilian participation in the form of a guard of honour along the walk by the President, accompanied by Parliament’s Presiding Officers and the Secretary to Parliament. Many South Africans looks forward to the red carpet before the ceremony – this provides a rare opportunity to see MPs, politicians and various other notable guests dressed to the nines accompanied by partners and family.
9. Where can I watch?
You can catch the live broadcast on SABC Radio, SABC TV, various other news broadcasting channels and Parliament TV (DSTV Channel 408). It is also likely to be streamed on Parliament’s YouTube channel
About this blog
"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.