Thursday night’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) by President Jacob Zuma will be his 10th address to the country and marks the formal opening of the national legislature.
Here is a quick wrap-up of what you need to know about this year’s Sona.
- It is a rare occasion when all three arms of the state, the executive, judiciary and legislature, come together to listen to the president reflect on the challenges facing the country and how government intends to address them.
- It is also a rare joint sitting of both houses of parliament, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) called by the president.
Zuma is expected to focus a great deal of his speech on the economy and land reform, taking into account how the country’s economic growth has stalled over the past year and fears over a credit rating downgrade by global ratings agencies.
- This year’s theme is celebrating 20 years of the constitution and 20 years since the establishment of the NCOP.
- This will be Zuma’s 10th Sona address since his election to the Union Buildings.
- According to parliament, the opportunity for MPs to comment on or question the address comes during a two-day joint sitting to debate the address on February 14 and 15.
- Zuma will respond to the debate during the two-day debate on February 16.
- Notable attendees of the event include former presidents and deputy presidents of the country, heads of Chapter 9 institutions tasked with protecting SA’s constitution, the mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille and citizens from various walks of life.
- Around 730 local and international journalists have been accredited to cover the event.
Two protests have been planned during of Zuma’s address.
- The South African Unintegrated Forces United Front will reportedly hold a gathering on the Grand Parade for 100 participants.
- The City of Cape Town on Tuesday granted the ANC permission to hold a “People’s Assembly” also on the Grand Parade for about 10 000 party supporters. Zuma is expected to attend the rally before his Sona address to discuss “radical economic transformation”.
- The National Union of Metal Workers (NUM) has applied for a protest permit for 500 people. Their application was yet to be confirmed by the City of Cape Town.
- The Economic Freedom Fighters will attend Zuma’s address, but it is unclear if the party will disrupt his speech following the chaos that broke out when its MPs were brutally ejected out of the House for calling on the president to account for the controversial nonsecurity upgrades to his private KwaZulu-Natal home in Nkandla.
- A “Speaker’s Ball” is expected to take place in a plush Cape Town hotel on Thursday evening, after Zuma’s address, but it has already been marred by questions over its organisers, whom no one seems to know.
The ANC and parliament have denied any involvement.