Parliament on state of readiness for 2019 State of the Nation Address

30 Jan 2019

Media statement of the presiding officers on the state of readiness for the 2019 State of the Nation Address scheduled for 7 February 2019

  1. Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.  Allow us to also welcome you to this briefing to appraise you and the public of Parliament’s preparations and state of readiness to host the important annual national event - the State of the Nation Address (SONA).
  1. The 2019 State of the Nation Address is scheduled for 7 February 2019 at 19h00. The theme for this year’s event is: “Following up on our commitments: Making Your Future Work Better”. The theme underpins Parliament’s endeavour to continuously intensify its commitment and service to the people and to ensure a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal and prosperous South Africa.
  1. The State of the Nation Address is called in terms of Section 42 of the Constitution by the President of the Republic. It is a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament and one of the rare occasions that bring together the three arms of the State under one roof.
  1. The Address affords the President an opportunity to speak to the nation on the general state of South Africa, to reflect on a wide range of political, economic and social matters within the domestic and global contexts, to account to the nation on the work of government and to set out the government’s program of action.
  1. This State of the Nation Address, is the last for this current term of Parliament. The Fifth Parliament will conclude in a few months’ time, bringing down the curtain on the term in which this institution has executed its function with activism, robustness, fearlessness and without fear or favour.
  1. As the nation gears itself for the national and provincial elections, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the democratic South Africa, Parliament will account to the nation, through the Legacy Report, regarding how it has carried out its Constitutional functions in the last 5 years.
  1. Some of the successes of this term of Parliament include the strengthening of oversight and accountability, which saw various inquiries conducted transparently and quality laws passed to intensify the pace of transformation.  Strides were made in putting the people at the center of parliamentary programmes, with our Oversight & Accountability Model being recognized as worthy of emulation by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in its Global Parliamentary Report. The High-Level Panel on Assessment of Key Legislation and Acceleration of Fundamental Change stands as one of the crucial interventions by this institution to improve its service to the people by examining how its work has impacted their lives since 1994.
  1. Armed with invaluable experience, the 5th Parliament is finalizing a handover report to the 6th Parliament that chronicles its performance, particularly in the areas of law-making, public participation and oversight, and issues to be taken up by the 6th Parliament. The 6th Parliament will thus build from the shoulders of the 5th Parliament that made significant progress in line with its Constructional functions. 
  1. 2019 being an election year, the work of hosting the two State of the Nation Addresses - one signifying the end of the 5th term of Parliament and the second one, the ushering in of the 6th Parliament and administration – is underway. 
  1. The preparatory work to deliver the February SONA was activated last year, and the institution is now at an advanced stage to ensure a successful occasion.
  1. Consistent with our endeavour to continuously scale down on costs in light of the prevailing economic conditions, we have kept arrangements to the bare minimum without compromising the significance and decorum of the occasion.
  1. In this regard, the participation of the nine eminent persons, provincial winners of a public education radio programme, the Junior and Civil Guard of Honour selected from the different legislatures has been withdrawn for the February 2019 SONA. As has been the case in the previous years, the post SONA gala dinner for Members of Parliament and guests will not take place.
  1. As South Africans continue to face economic challenges, Parliament is taking every feasible step to do more with fewer resources progressively. Parliament has cut the budget for the SONA ceremony by 47% in comparison to the 2018 SONA budget. From the budgeted R4.7million in 2018, the actual expenditure came down to R1.9m. For this SONA, we have budgeted R2.5 million, and we are confident that with the further spending control measures put in place, the actual expenditure will be significantly lower.
  1. A ceremonial parade exhibiting military traditions, drills, and ethos of the army, the navy and the air force of the Republic of South Africa will be maintained.  This includes a national salute by the Ceremonial Guard of the South African National Defence Force, a military band, a salute flight by the South African Air Force and a 21-gun salute.
  1. Processions on the red-carpet from Porthuis to the National Assembly building will reflect the three arms of the state – the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive. Once again, a praise singer will lead the President into the National Assembly Chamber. Consistent with the principle of rotation that is intended to afford all languages fair and equal opportunity, the praise signing for this SONA will be rendered in Setswana.
  1. We are delighted to confirm that former Heads of State and Presiding Officers have confirmed their attendance to this auspicious occasion, these include:
  • Former Presidents, Mr. Thabo Mbeki;
  • Former President Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe;
  • Former National Assembly Speaker Dr. Frene Ginwala; and
  • Former National Assembly Speaker Mr. Max Sisulu
     

Guests invited to this occasion, most of whom have confirmed include:

  • Representatives of statutory and Constitutional institutions,
  • Heads of Mission (the diplomatic corps) and their partners
  • Guests of the President
  • Representatives from civil society organisations, religious bodies, state-owned enterprises, business and trade organisations, trade union federations, academic and research institutions
  • Members of the Judiciary
  • Directors-general of national government departments
     
  1. The media plays a pivotal role in ensuring the public is informed of this crucial occasion, as such, we are pleased of the high interest demonstrated in the event. Over 800 applications have been received from national, provincial, regional, community and international media organisations to cover this event.
  1. Only one agenda item will be tabled at the joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces – the State of the Nation Address. Maintaining the decorum of the House remains the responsibility of both Presiding Officers during this special sitting, and rules and conventions applicable to joint sittings will apply.
  1. The two Houses of Parliament convene again jointly to debate the President’s Address over two days, on 12th and 13th February. This process provides the representatives of the people with the opportunity to interrogate the content of the State of the Nation Address. The President will then reply to the debate on 14 February.
  1. The State of the Nation Address will be broadcast live on radio and television and at public viewing sites in all provinces. The debate on the address and the President's reply will also be streamed live on Parliament's website, broadcast live on Parliament's DSTV television channel and on Parliament's YouTube channel.
  1. We are pleased to state that all arrangements are in place to ensure the successful hosting of this important and last State of the Nation Address for the Fifth Parliament.