Parliament will spend about R2 million for the State of the National Address. This was revealed by the Presiding Officers of Parliament during a briefing on preparations for SONA next Thursday. Presiding officers also say they don’t expect any disruption during the event.

This will be the second SONA for this year, to be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, during a Joint Sitting of Parliament.

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli says as Presiding Officers, they are confident of hosting a successful State of the Nation Address for the President to deliver his message to the Nation. He says this will come at a lower budget when compared to the one five years ago.

Tsenoli says, “Parliament has budgeted a total of what will likely be R2-million plus or so, for the State of the Nation Address ceremony and indications are that we will spend significantly less than the budgeted figure. For the February SONA ceremony we budgeted over R2-million and closed with a total spending of R1,6 million. Parliament has been tightening SONA budgets in the last few years, which has despite the price inflation came down from R9,2  million five years ago, to R2 million for this SONA ceremony. Once against there will be no post dinner address for MPs and guests. They (Guests) will have it on their own,  at their own expense. We (MPs) will have it on our own,-  at our own expense.”

The R2 million, excludes the Defence Force.

This was clarified by NCOP chairperson, Amos Masondo, “On the Defence budget question, R2 million does not include the contribution which is made by the Department of Defence. I guess this has always been the case in the past and it’s in keeping with tradition and practice.”

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise says no disruptions are expected. She says they will fall back on the implementation of the Joint Rules of Parliament.

Modise was responding to questions from the media, “The question on whether we are expecting any disruptions, we are not expecting any disruptions. We have not been given any indications that there is going to be any disruptions. Have we any contingency measures or extraordinary measures?,  no  we will not. We will stick to what we usually do, our rules. We will ensure that there is decorum. If anything happens we will fall back on our rules and do what we usually do,  strictly going through the session, relying on the Rules of a Joint Sitting of Parliament.”

About 1200 guests will attend the event. However, various public activities which have always been part of the SONA ceremony will not take place. Deputy Speaker Tsenoli says this is done without undermining the constitutional duty of ensuring public involvement in SONA.

Tsenoli elaborates on activities which have been suspended, “These aspects include the Junior Guard, Civil Guard who form a guard of honour for the State procession. The eminent persons who are usually selected from provinces on the basis of their outstanding achievement in their respective fields will also not  be part of the ceremony. Nine lucky winners of radio competitions selected from each of our provinces to attend the Joint Sitting have also not been included this time around. We have taken special care in the light of these changes to ensure that the 1200 guests who will be coming to Parliament for the address reflect a cross section of all of our society. The Imbongi which usually ushers presidents into the Chamber ahead of the address, and is elected in concurrence with the President, has also been withdrawn.”

Tsenoli says the ceremony will reflect the constitutional make-up of the State, with the procession consisting of the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive.

The Deputy Speaker says there will still be a full ceremonial parade of the South African Defence Force, which consists of the Army, the Navy and the Airforce,  to showcase the strength, drills and traditions of the military.

Tsenoli says among the 1200 guests, who have been invited, are former Presidents, Deputy Presidents, Presiding Officers, Chief Justices, Veterans of the Liberation Struggle and the two surviving Rivonia trialists, Andrew Mlangeni and Dennis Goldberg.