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SONA preparations at an advanced stage

Deputy Speak­er of the Nation­al Assem­bly Lech­esa Tseno­li says prepa­ra­tions for next week’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) are at an advanced stage.

Tseno­li said this when pre­sid­ing offi­cers briefed the media on the readi­ness of Par­lia­ment to host Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on Thurs­day, June 20.

“The prepa­ra­tions for SONA, which pro­vides the Pres­i­dent an oppor­tu­ni­ty to share government’s com­pre­hen­sive plans for the com­ing peri­od, are at an advanced stage.

“SONA also pro­vides Par­lia­ment with an oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­ro­gate the plans of gov­ern­ment – through its over­sight func­tion – and to facil­i­tate pub­lic involve­ment and put in place leg­isla­tive inter­ven­tions to realise the deliv­ery of ser­vices, where nec­es­sary.

“The President’s address, there­fore, will be fol­lowed by a debate by a joint sit­ting of both hous­es on June 25 and the President’s reply to the debate on June 26,” he said.

SONA fea­tures mod­i­fied due to poor econ­o­my, bad weath­er

Tseno­li said, mean­while, that var­i­ous fea­tures that have tra­di­tion­al­ly char­ac­terised the prepa­ra­tions and the actu­al SONA cer­e­monies have been mod­i­fied for the June SONA. The occa­sion will, how­ev­er, still pre­serve the deco­rum and solem­ni­ty of a key State event of such mag­ni­tude.

“In mak­ing these mod­i­fi­ca­tions, the pre­vail­ing eco­nom­ic hard­ships that con­tin­ue to face most South Africans and the expect­ed unfavourable weath­er con­di­tions have been tak­en into account,” he said.

Some of cer­e­mo­ni­al aspects of SONA that will be affect­ed by these include the junior guard and the civ­il guard, who form a guard of hon­our for the State pro­ces­sion and the emi­nent per­sons, who are usu­al­ly select­ed from provinces on the basis of their out­stand­ing achieve­ments in their respec­tive fields of work. Tseno­li said these aspects will both not be part of the event.

The praise singer, or imbon­gi, who usu­al­ly ush­ers the Pres­i­dent into the cham­ber ahead of his speech, has also been with­drawn.

A total of 1 200 guests have been invit­ed. These includes sur­viv­ing Rivo­nia tri­al­ists Denis Gold­berg and Andrew Mlan­geni, as well as Gertrude Shope and Sophie de Bruyn – who both were among those who led the icon­ic 1956 women’s march.

“As has occurred before, there will also be a mount­ed police escort and a mil­i­tary cer­e­mo­ni­al motor escort and the lin­ing of the President’s route to Par­lia­ment by the mil­i­tary.

“Due to the expect­ed weath­er con­di­tions and the scal­ing down of cer­tain aspects of the cer­e­mo­ny, the President’s walk to the Nation­al Assem­bly build­ing, where the address is deliv­ered, will be short­er than usu­al,” he said.

R2 mil­lion bud­get­ed for SONA

Tseno­li said a bud­get of R2 mil­lion has been set aside for next week’s event and indi­ca­tions are that Par­lia­ment will spend less than the bud­get­ed fig­ure.

“For the Feb­ru­ary SONA cer­e­mo­ny, we bud­get­ed just over R2 mil­lion but closed with a total spend­ing of R1.6 mil­lion. Par­lia­ment has been tight­en­ing the SONA bud­get in the last few years, which has, despite the price infla­tion, come down from R9.2 mil­lion five years ago to R2 mil­lion for this SONA cer­e­mo­ny,” he said.

The speech will be broad­cast live on Par­lia­ment TV, DStv chan­nel 408 and Parliament’s You Tube chan­nel from 19:00 next week Thurs­day. It is also expect­ed to be car­ried live on oth­er news chan­nels. –

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