Uncertainty over Zuma’s SONA attendance

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Former President Jacob Zuma has not yet accepted an invitation by Parliament’s presiding officers to attend the opening of Parliament next week. It is not yet clear whether Zuma will still accept the invitation and be able to attend.

The same uncertainty preceded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s maiden SONA address in 2018, with Zuma not responding to the invitation and eventually not attending the event.

Presiding officers briefed the media at on their readiness to host the event, taking place next week.

Former Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe as well as former National Assembly Speakers, Frene Ginwala and Max Sisulu, have confirmed their attendance.

The presiding officers of Parliament say all former presidents and presiding officers always get an invite to attend the opening of Parliament.

The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, says as a former president, Jacob Zuma received an invitation but has not confirmed attendance.

“If we indicate that he is not coming it might be that he has not accepted our invitation. But we don’t think anything untoward. People do have commitments.”

The 2019’s opening is budgeted at nearly 50% less than in 2018.

National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete says for 2019, they are budgeting R2.5 million as opposed to the nearly R5 million last year.

“For this SONA, we budgeted R2.5 million confident with further spending control, the actual expenditure will be significantly lower.”

Modise, explaining where they have made budget cuts, says,  “The participation of imminent people, junior and civil guard and the post SONA gala dinner will not take place.”

She has added that Parliament will not place extraordinary measures in place in the light of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) threatening to disrupt the opening.

“Parliament will not place extraordinary measures in place in the light of the EFF threatening to disrupt next week’s opening of Parliament.”