Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana says Parliament is ready to host a successful State of the Nation Address (SONA) come 11 February. Briefing media in Cape Town on Friday on the logistics around SONA, Mgidlana said all necessary arrangements are being made to ensure the event will be successful.
He said about R3.6m is budgeted for this year’s SONA, a reduction from the 2015 SONA budget of about R4m.
“It is important to note that the reduction in the budget that has happened over the years happened without necessarily reducing services,” said Mgidlana.
He said a serious decision has been taken this year that there will be no dinner following the event, which will bring down expenditure. SONA is an extraordinary seating that combines the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly and its purpose is for the President to deliver government’s programme, outline how government will spend its money and resources for the year.
Public participation, SONA debate
SONA is followed by a two-day debate in Parliament where parties express their views regarding the programme that has been tabled by the President for the year. Mgidlana said this will be followed by public participation.
He said various schools from South Africa’s nine provinces have been invited, and Parliament has been working with all provinces to invite eminent people from each province. Their names will soon be finalised. The Imbongi [praise poet] will this year come from KwaZulu-Natal.
Mgidlana said Parliament is working closely with media through the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) to ensure extensive connection and coverage of the event, which is important for public participation.
He said this will allow the public to engage and interact on programmes put on the table by government.
Mgidlana said Parliament has this year improved rules, particularly for SONA. He said the rules have been developed by political parties in Parliament and they have been agreed.
“[The rules] are meant to improve relations between parties and are meant to provide a secure environment which will allow parties to dispense of their constitutional responsibilities,” said Mgidlana.
He said Parliament has engaged with the City of Cape Town, which provides electricity to the house, and can ensure that there will be no load shedding to disrupt the SONA, as grid stability has improved greatly in the country.
“Should it happen that we lose power, we always have backup generators which will ensure that the business of the day continues within five minutes of disruption,” said Mgidlana.
“We have made appropriate plans around security. We do not manage the issue of organisations that may or may not march.
“All necessary arrangements are being made in this regard and updated accordingly, so that we are in a position to host a good event,” said Mgidlana.