#SONA2013- All you need to know | PMG
What is the State of the Nation Address?
The State of the Nation Address marks the opening of the parliamentary year and is delivered in the first or second week of February. This ritual is brought about by the President after invoking Section 84 (d) of the Constitution- ‘summoning the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces or Parliament to an extraordinary sitting to conduct special business’.
During an Election Year, two State of the Nation Addresses are presented- one in February and the other, after the elections when the new President and Parliament are established. It is an occasion steeped in colour, pageantry and formality. The proceedings include the parade by the different arms of government, the air force fly-past, the traditional 21-gun salute and the military marching band.
The sounds of the military band, the buzz of the crowd, the bang of the 21-gun salute, the colour and texture of the diverse fashions, and the solemnity of the occasion all create an arresting tableau. Added to this, we have the fusion of the colonial and the indigenous- as illustrated by the Sergeant-at-Arms and the imbongi (traditional praise singer).
The lists of invitees are many and varied. Guests include former Presidents, Deputy Presidents and Presiding Officers of Parliament’s two Houses, the Judiciary, current Cabinet Ministers, Heads of Government Departments, members of Parliament and their guests, and South Africans from various walks of life. Members of the public take part in the ceremony through a Junior Guard of Honour (comprising school students), a Civil Guard of Honour (comprising representatives of civil society organisations) and Eminent Persons (nominated by Provincial Speakers from all nine provinces).
The speech focuses on the current political and socio-economic state of the nation. It highlights the achievements and challenges of the past year as well as setting out the agenda for the coming year. Some view this type of speech as a “bland, boring laundry list-cum-scorecard of plans and accomplishments”. Others attach much significance to it and view it as an “important policy agenda-setting opportunity”.
During the ANC’s January 8 Statement, the President gave a preview of some of the topics that will likely be covered in the SONA. These include matters relating to land reform, implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) and reducing unemployment.
Once the speech is delivered, it will be scrutinised and analysed by politicians, analysts, the media and ordinary members of the public. Some will fuss about style and the lexicon- counting the number of times the President says: “jobs”, “the economy”, “ infrastructure”, “women”, “education”, and “triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality”. Others will worry about substance and focus on matters like tone, detail and timeframes.
The State of the Nation Address will also be debated by both Houses of Parliament. All political parties have an opportunity to give their opinions and raise questions on matters addressed in the speech. The President in turn is provided an opportunity to respond to opinions and questions arising from the debates. The debates are expected to be very interesting given the call for a motion of no confidence debate made by 8 opposition parties late last year. In addition, the parliamentary committees ask the departments that they oversee to respond to the State of the Nation Address.
The State of the Nation Address will be delivered on 14 February at 7pm. The debates are scheduled for 19 and 20 February and the President’s response will be on 21 February.
Did you know?
Each year Parliament identifies a theme which is informed by its strategic focus. Parliament’s theme for 2012 was the knowledge economy and development opportunities. This year’s theme is "socio-economic development through oversight and public participation".
In the USA, one Cabinet Secretary is not in attendance during the State of the Union address. This is intended to maintain continuity of government in the event of a catastrophic occurrence. We are not aware of and could not establish if there was a similar practice in South Africa. Parliament indicated that current MPs, Cabinet Ministers and HODs will attend as attendance forms part of their duties as public representatives
In 2012, the cost to Parliament for the event was R6 million. The cost for 2013 is R6.8 million.
Since 1994, all Presidents have routinely delivered the State of the Nation Address in the morning. This was changed in 2010 by the President, when it was moved to the evening to maximize audiences.
More information on the State of the Nation programme and guests that will be in attendance can be found here http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=2836 …
President Zuma in words
5 207 words in 2012 http://www.info.gov.za/speech/DynamicAction?pageid=461&sid=24980&tid=55960
5 168 words in 2011 http://www.info.gov.za/speech/DynamicAction?pageid=461&sid=16154&tid=27985
4 364 words in 2010 http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2010/10021119051001.htm
4 893 words in 2009 http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2009/09060310551001.htm
President Zuma in action (youtube)