1. What is the SONA?
It is an annual address given by the President to a joint session of Parliament and marks the official opening of the legislature. It is designed to be a report on the economic and social state of the nation, and 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. In a general election year, two State of the Nation Addresses are delivered.
2. Time and place
SONA will be delivered on Thursday, 7 February 2019 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.
3. Theme The theme for this year’s event is: “Following up on our commitments: Making Your Future Work Better”.
4. What will the President say?
The speech will seek to build on the governing party’s January 8 Statement. The speech will largely be a report back on the administration’s progress and achievements over the past 5 years. It will also be an opportunity for the President to layout his party’s vision/manifesto to a prime time tv audience: this includes the plan to grow South Africa.
5. Who are the key guests at the State of the Nation Address?
Guests include former Presidents and Deputy Presidents, former presiding officers of Parliament, the judiciary, Premiers and Speakers of provincial legislatures, the heads of Chapter 9 institutions, religious leaders, business owners, trade unionists, school learners, civil society organisations, traditional leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and the Mayor of Cape Town. The President’s special guests include local and foreign people who have made a positive contribution to society and achieved extraordinary things.
The National Assembly gallery can only accommodate 720 people, so the overflow are accommodated in other parts of the parliamentary precinct.
The budget for SONA 2019 is set at R2.5 million. This is a big reduction from the previous year where R4.7 million was budgeted an actual expenditure came to R1.9m.
7. When do political parties get to respond to the SONA?
The debate on the State of the Nation Address is scheduled for 12 and 13 February and the reply by the President is set for 14 February.
8. What is the format of the ceremony?
The ceremony involves a mounted police escort and a military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the President’s route to Parliament by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), cultural performances along the route, a praise singer at the entrance to the National Assembly Chamber, a national salute by the Ceremonial Guard of the SANDF, a military band, a salute flight by the South African Air Force and a 21-gun salute. It also includes civilian participation in the form of a guard of honour along the walk by the President, accompanied by Parliament’s Presiding Officers and the Secretary to Parliament. Many South Africans looks forward to the red carpet before the ceremony – this provides a rare opportunity to see MPs, politicians and various other notable guests dressed to the nines accompanied by partners and family.
9. Where can I watch?
You can catch the live broadcast on SABC Radio, SABC TV, various other news broadcasting channels and Parliament TV (DSTV Channel 408). It is also likely to be streamed on Parliament’s YouTube channel
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