10 things to know ahead of #SONA2019

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1.What is the SONA?

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is an annual address given by the President to a joint session of Parliament. It is called in terms of Section 42 of the Constitution by the President of the Republic, and is designed to be a report on the economic and social state of the nation. It includes a review of the past year and priorities for the current year. This is a special and unique occasion where all three arms of the state are in the same place together.

2 .Time and place

President Ramaphosa’s second SONA will be delivered on Thursday, February 7 at 19:00.

Since 2010, the SONA has been delivered in the evening to give more South Africans an opportunity to listen to the address. The setting is the same as always: the National Assembly Chamber.

325 years of democracy

2019 marks the 25th anniversary of a democratic South Africa. South Africans went to the polls for the first time on 27 April 1994.


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.

5Elections 2019

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, and is finalising 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.

Parliament will account to the nation through the Legacy Report, regarding how it has carried out its Constitutional functions in the last 5 years.

The 6th Parliament will thus build from the shoulders of the 5th Parliament that made significant progress in line with its Constructional functions.

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.

The President is expected to announce an election date during or shortly after the State of the Nation Address.

 6.What will the President say?

The speech will seek to build on the ruling party’s January 8 statement. The speech should be heavy on economic issues (reigniting growth) and focus on achieving radical socio- economic transformation to uplift the poor and the working class. The speech will be delivered against the background of persistent unemployment and inequality, widespread corruption, a weakened economy, a water crisis, 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.

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

 A number of former Heads of State and Presiding Officers have confirmed their attendance. These include Former Presidents, Thabo Mbeki; Kgalema Motlanthe; former National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala; and former National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu

There will also be representatives from civil society organisations, religious bodies, state-owned enterprises, business and trade organisations, trade union federations, academic and research institutions.

Over 800 applications have been received from national, provincial, regional, community and international media organisations to cover this event.


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, parliament has budgeted R2.5 million.

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 also not take place.

9. When do political parties get to respond to the SONA?

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.

10.What is the format of the ceremony?

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.

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.

Where can I watch? 

Watch live crossings throughout the day – with a live stream from 15:00 on sabcnews.com



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