Everything you need to know about SONA 2016

When and what time is the 2016 State of the Nation Address?

President Zuma’s ninth State of the Address will be delivered on Thursday, February 11 at 19:00. In a break from tradition in February 2010, he delivered the SONA for the first time in the evening to give more South Africans an opportunity to view the proceedings and to listen to the address. The setting is the same as always: the National Assembly Chamber.

How can I watch this year’s SONA?

All major news channels (eNCA, SABC News, ANN7, Parliament Channel) will broadcast the speech live. Other forms of streaming will be available, including by video at https://www.youtube.com/user/ParliamentofRSA and on the radio through SAFM. The speech will also be broadcasted on big screen televisions at various sites (shopping centres, taxi ranks etc.)across the country.

What topics will he covered in this year’s speech?

The speech will be delivered against the background of persistent unemployment and inequality, a weakened economy, continuing racism, a devastating drought, access to higher education challenges and problems weighing down state owned companies. The President is expected to talk to these challenges and set out his administration’s vision, priorities and programmes for the forthcoming year.

wordle SONA 2015 wordle

With this being an election year, the state of local government and access to service delivery will also feature heavily in the speech.

Commentators have also had their say (see here and here) and have cited the economy as the biggest issue that needs to be tackled by the President.

A survey of social media commentary and radio chatter show that the public are concerned about the latest interest rate hike, food prices, crime and deepening poverty.

President Zuma’s SONA speeches have typically lasted about an hour and are approximately 5000 words.

Who are the key guests at the State of the Nation Address?

Parliament and the Presidency invite a wide range of people to the event. Guests include former Presidents and Deputy Presidents, former presiding officers of Parliament, the judiciary, premiers and speakers of provincial legislatures, the heads of Chapter 9 institutions, religious leaders, business owners, trade unionists, school learners, civil society organisations, traditional leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and South Africans from various walks of life. The President’s special guests include local and foreign people who have made a positive contribution to society and achieved extraordinary things. In the past, Chad le Clos, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse and the families of former ANC Presidents were invited as special guests.

picture Parliament's Presiding Officers - SONA 2015

When do political parties get to respond to the SONA?

The debate on the State of the Nation Address is scheduled for 16 and 17 February and the reply by the President is set for 18 February. Opposition parties use this opportunity to crticise the President and his administration while the President and the ruling party will defend his record. The rhetoric is often heated and memorable…Mmusi Maimane’s “broken man speech” created waves last year.

What is unique about our State of the Nation Address?

A praise singer leads the President into the National Assembly Chamber. This tradition was introduced when the late President Nelson Mandela delivered his first SONA and has become an important part of the proceedings. A female praise singer was used for the first time during last year’s event.

Why is the red carpet so popular?

The red carpet is always a highlight as politicians let their hair down, pose in their best garb and give viewers plenty to discuss. The atmosphere on the carpet is always jovial in and something of a contrast to the austere state ocassion. The red carpet can also be a lowlight for those succumbing to dodgy fashion choices.

What is the format of the ceremony?

The ceremony involves a mounted police escort and a military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the President’s route to Parliament by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), cultural performances along the route, a praise singer at the entrance to the National Assembly Chamber, a national salute by the Ceremonial Guard of the SANDF, a military band, a salute flight by the South African Air Force and a 21-gun salute. It also includes civilian participation along the walk by the President, accompanied by Parliament’s Presiding Officers and the Secretary to Parliament.

What happens after the speech?

There is usually a lavish dinner for invited guests. However, Parliament has decided to forgo the banquet this year due to the tough economic climate. The budget for this year's event has been trimmed to R3.6m.

Local Versions

The State of the Province Address is a localised version of the State of the Nation Address where Premiers reflect on their achievements and communicate their programmes of action in respect of government’s five priority areas - education, health, the fight against crime and corruption, rural development and land reform as well as jobs for the year ahead. In past years, many provinces have held the event away from the legislature, in places such as sport grounds and university campuses. This is done to bring the legislature closer to the public and to accommodate more people at the event.

See the full schedule below:

Western Cape Provincial Parliament, Friday, 19 Feb at 10h00

Limpopo Legislature, Friday, 26 Feb at 09h00

Eastern Cape Legislature, Friday, 19 Feb at 10h00

Mpumalanga Legislature, Friday, 26 Feb at 09h00

Free State Legislature, Tuesday, 16 Feb at 09h00

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, Thursday, 25 Feb at 09h00

Northern Cape Legislature, Thursday, 18 Feb at 09h00

North West Legislature, Friday, 26 Feb at 09h00

Gauteng Legislature, Tuesday, 23 Feb at 10h00

Last year, we had plenty of drama: signal jamming, walk outs and forced removal of MPs. There will be lots of colour and flavour on show this year. Who knows what lies ahead for this year?


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