#SONA2024: All You Need To Know
1. What is the SONA?
It is an annual address given by the President to a joint session of Parliament and marks the legislature’s official opening. 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.
In a general election year, two State of the Nation Addresses are delivered.
The tradition of giving a State of the Nation Address is rooted in the Joint Rules of Parliament, read together with the Constitution. Rule 7(1)(a) of the Joint Rules states that the President may call a joint sitting of the Houses when it is necessary to deliver the annual or a special address to Parliament.
This is the only item on the agenda for this special sitting and it is presided over by both the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.
2. Time and place
SONA will be delivered on Thursday, 08 February at 19:00 to a prime-time TV audience. Since 2010, SONA has been delivered in the evening to allow more South Africans to listen to the address.
For the third consecutive year, the address will take place at the Cape Town City Hall due to ongoing repairs of the National Assembly Chamber.
The post-SONA debates will also take place at the City Hall.
The theme for the 2024 SONA is consistent with the theme of the Sixth Parliament, “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.
4. What will the President say?
The speech is the result of collaboration among a large number of officials in the government - including policy advisors, researchers, and speech writers – and outside advisors and thinkers. Traditionally, the Forum of Director-Generals, the ANC's January 8th Statement, NEC Lekgotla, and the Cabinet Lekgotla play a central role in shaping the speech.
The speech will seek to build on previous speeches and commitments. The speech will also be an opportunity for the President to update the nation on progress and lay out his plans and vision to grow South Africa. It’s one of the most important speeches that the President delivers in any year.
The Presidency has published an overview of the administration’s progress over the last five years.
According to one analyst, the President is expected to touch on the list of things that will be done in 2024:
- An imminent end to load shedding.
- A fix for the rail freight sector.
- An infrastructure boom.
- A take-off for economic growth.
5. Who are the key guests at the State of the Nation Address?
This year’s SONA will be fully physical and all attendees will be present in the chamber and public gallery. All approximately 400 National Assembly MPs and 90 NCOP delegates will be accommodated in the chamber, while representatives of other arms of State, and spheres of government, including provincial Premiers and SALGA representatives, dignitaries and media will be accommodated in the gallery.
The dignitaries invited include former Presidents, former Presiding Officers, Judges, the SADC-PF President, the Pan-African Parliament President, the Dean and the Regional Deans of the Diplomatic Corps and Secretaries of Provincial Legislatures.
The budget for this year is set at R6.5 million, which also covers the related SONA debates and the President’s Reply, and the delivery of the Budget on 21 February. R8 million was budgeted for last year’s SONA and Budget events.
7. When do political parties get to respond to the SONA?
The debate on the State of the Nation Address will take place on 13 and 14 February. The President will reply to the debate on 15 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 the government's record and proposals.
8. What is the format of the ceremony?
This year’s proceedings will follow the full ceremony format. Activities undertaken and observed during a full ceremony include the Flame Guard, 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 prepared in front of the statue of uTata 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.
There will also be a Junior Guard of Honour consisting of 100 learners selected from four schools from across the Western Cape.
In keeping with tradition, an imbongi will be part of the procession when the President enters the Cape Town City Hall. This year, the official language of SONA will be Siswati and a praise singer from Mpumalanga province, Ms Senziwe Hatty Maliba (Nkosatane Nziwe), will usher the President into the venue.
9. Joint Rules
In order to address repeated disruptions during SONA, Parliament passed a package of rules for joint sittings at the end of last year. This includes provisions that no Member may interrupt the President whilst delivering the State of the Nation Address and that Members may be guilty of grossly disorderly conduct if they repeatedly undermine the authority of the Presiding Officer or repeatedly refuse to obey rulings of the Presiding Officer or repeatedly disrespect and interrupt the Presiding Officer while the latter is addressing the House.
10. 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 will also be streamed on Parliament’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-JR9Voq8LwxPCxKwqieRpQ
The Presidency has published an overview of the administration’s progress over the last five years
About this blog
"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.