Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Zuma invited to attend ‘R6.5 million’ Sona

More than 400 people expected to attend the annual event on Thursday evening.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says former president Jacob Zuma has been invited to attend this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), which could cost nearly R7 million.

The 2024 Sona will be hosted at the Cape Town City Hall, with more than 400 people expected to attend the annual event on Thursday evening.

Final Sona

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Mapisa-Nqakula said all preparations are in order for President Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver his Sona speech.

The Speaker highlighted the “importance” of this year’s event as it marked South Africa’s 30 years of democracy and “the final Sona of the current parliamentary five-year-term”.

“Concurrently, as we prepare for this Sona, we are also engaging in extensive preparations for both the opening of the seventh Parliament and for welcoming the new generation of members of Parliament,” she said.

She indicated that, alongside Zuma, special guests such as former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe as well as National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, Chief Justice Zondo and Deputy Chief Justice Maya, among others, have been invited to the event.

ALSO READ: What the Sona and budget hold for South Africa

“All attendees, including members of Parliament and invited guests, will be physically present in both the chamber and the public gallery. Approximately 490 Members of Parliament and representatives of the South African Local Government Association [Salga] will be seated in the chamber,” Mapisa-Nqakula explained.

The Speaker confirmed that the Cape Town City Hall, which has been designated as the parliamentary precinct, will also host the two-day debate on the president’s address, featuring a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Ramaphosa’s reply to the debate and the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana’s Budget Speech, scheduled a few days later, will also take place at the same venue.

Watch the briefing below:

New rules

Mapisa-Nqakula further highlighted that new rules, introduced to regulate proceedings during joint sittings of the National Assembly and the NCOP with the primary aim of maintaining order, will be implemented for the first time during Sona.

She said the rules were an “essential step” in ensuring that the parliamentary proceedings were conducted with “the respect and seriousness they deserve”.

“In terms of the new rules, no member is allowed to interrupt the president while delivering the State of the Nation Address. Similarly, interruptions are prohibited during the president’s speech at the opening of Parliament,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

The Speaker added: “These measures are critical in ensuring that these important national events are conducted in an orderly and respectful manner, reflecting the dignity of Parliament and the importance of these addresses in setting the nation’s legislative and developmental agenda.”

READ MORE: ‘Politically motivated’- EFF slams ‘draconian decision’ to suspend leaders from parliament

The new rules follows the disruptions by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs during last year’s Sona.

The EFF members, including party leader Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, were forcefully removed from the National Assembly after trying to storm the City Hall stage.

NCOP chairperson Amos Masondo, however, clarified that the rules “were not meant for the EFF or any other political party”.

“The decorum is responsibility for all of us as members of Parliament whether one is in the National Council of Provinces or the National Assembly. For Parliament to succeed in its work, we need a greater collaborative effort and indeed in working together there’s so much that can be done [and] achieved,” he said.

Attendance, budget

On whether all former presidents had accepted their invitations, Masondo said: “We expect all the people who are mentioned to be present and be part of processes.”

Meanwhile, Secretary to Parliament, Xolile George said the special guests have confirmed receipt of their invitations.

“We look forward to receiving those who will be able to make it,” George told reporters.

George revealed that R6.5 million had been budgeted for Sona.

“We will able, as a standard measure, after the event to have a fully reconciled figure on how much was spent on the event.”

NOW READ: Here’s what was promised in the last Sona, and what has changed

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