No special sitting before SONA: Mbete

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The National Assembly will not hold a special sitting ahead of next week’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

This after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for an urgent sitting to debate a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma’s leadership in light of recent political developments in the country.

In a media briefing on preparations for SONA, both Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete and her deputy Lechesa Tsenoli said there would be no postponement. Both the EFF and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have written to the speaker to have SONA postponed.

The DA says Zuma should not be allowed to deliver SONA until the African National Congress (ANC) resolves whether he should complete the remainder of his term.

The EFF, called for a special sitting to allow for a motion of no confidence in the President.

Earlier in the National Assembly Programming Committee, EFF Whip Ntombovuyo Mente wanted the postponement of the address to be scheduled because they had already written to the speaker twice with their request.

“Then we wrote again reminding her of her promise and that the sitting should be before the SONA should be actually programmed. So it’s not indicated in this particular programme. Can we get then a report as to how far and when is it going to be programmed because the request was that it must be before the SONA.”

Deputy Speaker Tsenoli made it clear at the media briefing that a special sitting would not happen.

“To call a special sitting before SONA is unlikely to happen. I don’t know what is the likelihood of that, I can’t hear it given the things we’ve just laid before you and in addition to have a special sitting? No.”

Speaker Mbete endorsed this position.

“I underline the answer the Deputy Speaker has given and the answer is no, we are not going to have a special sitting before the joint sitting to receive the SONA address.”

National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson Thandi Modise says as far as she is concerned, issues of motions of no confidence do not affect her chamber and therefore it is not on their agenda.

“Members of the National Assembly wrote to the Speaker, they did not write to us. There is no way I will discuss a matter we have not been invited to discuss. As far as NCOP is concerned, it is SONA on the 8 February.”

In the letter to the Speaker, the EFF indicated that if the special sitting is not scheduled, they might raise it during the President’s address.

This suggests they may raise points of order like they did last year, which resulted in a lengthy disruption.

Tsenoli says that this will not be tolerated.

“We take exception to threats of disruption. They should be rejected. We must not be on the fence about issues that in their nature undermine the political dispensation by conducting ourselves in problematic manners.”

Journalists raised concerns over the security measures that included armed soldiers entering the precincts of Parliament. Modise says they have an undertaking that the events will not be repeated.

“I can say to you we have sharply raised the issue of signal blockages, we have raised the issue of armed army personnel, we have raised the undertaking that we will not have a repeat of what took place here.”

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