Sun Dec 04 20:23:00 SAST 2016

LIVE BLOG: State of the Nation #SONA2016

2016-02-11 15:20:40.0

Follow our live blog by Rand Daily Mail editor Ray Hartley on President Jacob Zuma's 2016 State of the Nation Address in Cape Town. Refresh this page to view updates.


So, did the speech rise to the occasion?


Zuma certainly tried to use the right words: belt-tightening, the need to attract investment and a general ‘we can’t carry on as usual’ tone.


Detail was scarce and the snipping of dinner budgets and the like is not really going to change the game.


The big ticket expenditure items such as the civil service payroll are untouched.


It appears that Zuma has finally had to accept that his nuclear build needs to be tailored to what is affordable, which is an important step.


His bombshell announcement that the scrapping of two capital cities is likely to cause a stir going forward.


As for the carry on before the speech, it seemed a little tired and short of imagination. The EFF failed to make the most of the moment with continuous points of order.


Mosiuoa Lekota stole the thunder when he made a clear statement that he believed that Zuma had lost his legitimacy before he was thrown out.


On the whole, considering Zuma came into this speech under siege on all fronts, he came out of it reasonably well.


Read Zuma's full State of the Nation Address here.


Zuma returns to the economy for his finale:


"It is clear that we will not achieve our growth target at the time we had hoped to achieve it."


"It is important to act decisively to remove domestic constraints to growth."


"We cannot change global economic conditions, but we can do a lot to change local conditions."


Rapturous applause from those not yet booted out of the house.


Zuma talked about the BRICS bank, but made no mention of Nhlanhla Nene’s supposed ‘appointment’ to the bank. When he fired him as finance minister, Zuma claimed it had been urgent because Nene’s name had to be submitted as a candidate for a position in the bank. Nene has since said he is yet to receive an offer from the bank.


A capital question: Cape Town or Pretoria?



On the Cape Town thing. It was first raised by Nelson Mandela. I remember the occasion well. Mandela was in his back garden in Pretoria and he wondered aloud if a new parliament could be built on vacant ground behind the official residence.

 He backed down when he was lobbied about the high costs to the Cape economy. Back then the ANC was running the city and the local party was dead against the move to one capital city.

But the equation has changed. The ANC no longer runs Cape Town and is unlikely to ever win it back. Zuma probably figures that if the DA’s crown jewel is tarnished, who cares …


More from the redoubtable Jan-Jan Joubert. This time from Malema's impromptu presser outside the chamber:


“This man who’s speaking here is the same man who said he has breached the oath of office and conceded in the constitutional court that he deliberately not implement remedial actions of public protector.”


“The court is done, the man has admitted, what more do you want? The man has said he will pay. Remedial actions are binding. He’s done.”


But it was not the EFF's best night. They missed the opportunity to make this point inside the chamber while the country was watching. Lekota stole their thunder.


(Picture: Anthony Molyneaux, TMG Multimedia)




Zuma on the thorny tax amendment act: “A solution is being sought.”

Zuma welcomed agreement on the principle of a national minimum wage.

“The national minimum wage should be implemented in a manner that does not undermine employment creation, the thriving of small businesses or economic growth.”


The controversial nuclear build goes ahead, but with a telling caveat. Could it be that Pravin Gordhan has laid down the law?


Zuma says the market will be ‘tested’ with a view to building nuclear power plants, but he added this would be done “on a scale and a pace that our country can afford”.


Zuma drops a bombshell. Should South Africa have two capitals?

“We believe that the matter requires the attention of parliament soon,” he said.

“The executive has looked into this matter and the cost is too big to be maintained because it means we must have two houses – one in Pretoria, one in Cape Town. We must have two cars – one in Pretoria, one in Cape Town. We must have officials travelling using hotels.”

“This is a matter that must be considered on an urgent basis if we are to cut costs.”

So has Zuma’s economic package ‘changed the game’? Unfortunately not. For one thing, he referred to South Africa’s problems as being the result of global conditions out of our control.

This fails to address why South Africa is worse off than its emerging market peers.

Belt-tightening measures were fairly humdrum:
- Overseas trips will be curtailed.
- The sizes of delegations will be greatly reduced and standardised.
- Spending on social functions and catering would be cut.
- Budget vote dinners have been scrapped.

How much can be saved from this sort of snipping?



Thanks to Jan-Jan Joubert of our parliamentary staff we have the full Malema quote. And here it is:


“You are our of order because you cannot expel people for speaking in this house. We are not going to allow that. This is so undemocratic. They listened to you and they went to sit down. Now yo have just called them from nowhere. It's incorrect. It's unacceptable. You are prepared to remove the whole party which has been elected by the people in defense of one man. Zuma is no longer a president that deserves respect from anyone. He has stolen from us. He has collapsed gthe economy of South Africa. He has made this country a joke and after that he has laughed at us. We cannot allow Zupta to do as he pleases in this country. We are not going to allow that. We are doing what we are doing because we don't recognise Zuma as our president. He is not our president.”

There. Now you know.


Zuma talked about the threat posed by a possible ratings downgrade and turned to “an effective turn-around plan” that was “about doing things differently”.

Zuma said South Africa had to be marketed as a “preferred destination for investment”. There needed to be a “common narrative” between business, labour and government.

“We have heard the points about the need to create the correct investment support infrastructure.”

Turning to state-owned enterprises, he said some were performing well. Like Sanral, whose roads were “the envy of many in the world”.

Eskom “manages to keep the economy going against all odds.”


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With the EFF vanquished, Zuma continues his speech amidst polite applause and a strange silence.
Outside the chamber, Malema is the centre of attention as reporters and photographers crowd around him.

Zuma moves on the economy, saying that when the economy grows, jobs are created. “Our economy has been facing difficulties since the financial crisis of 2008.

“Our reality right now is that global growth still remains muted. Financial markets have become volatile. Currencies of emerging markets have become weak and they fluctuate wildly. Prices of commodities … have dropped significantly.”


The predicted meltdown is underway as Malema shouts after a long list of MPs is ordered from the house.






Mbete has taken off her glasses and is rubbing the bridge of her nose as NCOP chair Thandi Modise takes over.


The points of order keep coming. "Why do you allow ANC people to speak, but not us."


Modise asserts herself. Another point of order. And another. And ...


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The interruptions continue. Julius Malema is once more questioning procedure.


"You are not going to tell us how to participate here," says Malema.


"Honourable Malema, I really have to prevail on you to leave the chamber because you are not interested in these proceedings," says Mbete.


She appears to back down again, saying: "I am calling on you to play your leadership role."


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Zuma starts out with the race issue. Crafty. It's something all the parties agree on.


But he is interrupted in mid-stride by another point of order. NCOP chair Thandi Modise takes the mic and calmly deals with it.


Zuma giggles to himself and then continues with his speech. Human Rights Day on March 21 will be dedicated to fighting racism.


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Lekota is ordered to leave the chamber. Amidst shouting from the opposition benches, Mbete says: "The members of Cope have left the house".


Zuma continues. He was half way through his recognition of a long list of dignitaries.


Among those he welcomes are "the heads of Chapter 9 institutions". That would include Thuli Madonsela.


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Zuma begins his speech but it interupted by Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota who asks to rise on a point of order. Mbete tells him to take his seat.


“Honourable Lekota, I appeal to you to take your seat,” says Mbete.


Lekota insists, Mbete resists.


Then she relents and Lekota raises his point which is that Zuma has broken his oath of office. "He is no longer honourable."


Mmusi Maimane rises to say that Zuma should be allowed to speak and Mbete takes the gap. Zuma takes to the podium and begins ...


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Mbete is now losing it. "Make up your minds whether you want to stay in the chamber or not."


But she appears to have momentarily backed off throwing Malema out, calling on him to "show leadership".


Now MPs are rising to debate whether or not Mbete's rules are legitimate. The DA's John Steenhuisen says the rules are there to have orderly debate. "You have no right to come to the house and change the rules."


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Shivambu, Malema and Ndlozi are now shouting over Mbete. They want Mbete to explain which rule she is using.


Mbete is insisting that MPs will have an opportunity to address the house 'next week'. The EFF is not buying it.


An unedifying spectacle.


For some reason, the phrase ‘Nou gaan die poppe dans’ comes to mind.


Speaker Baleka Mbete tells EFF MP Floyd Shivambu to take his seat as he asks a question.


He wants “clarity on the rules that are applicable in this house”.


Mbete says: “Please take your seat.”


She talks through Julius Malema raising a point of order.

“Allow me to finish,” says Mbete.


“This sitting is meant specifically to afford the president an opportunity to deliver the state of the nation address. No business other than the address by the president is entertained,” says Mbete. 

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen

, 19:17,


Now he enters the chamber, the EFF's red hats to his right, the ANC benches to his left.


ANC MPs rise and begin rhythmic clapping, but the opposition benches remain seated with sulky expressions.


The praise singer begins his oration.


The president is making his way up the red carpet, stopping to shake hands and greet the assembled crowd. He looks very relaxed in a smart black suit with a deep maroon tie. All smiles after a tough week. He is accompanied into the chamber by the Speaker, who has thankfully abandoned the hat for this session.


Now he takes the salute before the guard of honour, placing his hand on his heart as the national anthem is played by the band. The twenty-one gun salute begins. (Picture: Anthony Molyneaux, TMG Multimedia)




A splendid phalanx of horses bearing flags is making its way onto the parliamentary precinct. Flags are being waved, soldiers are standing at attention. It's all rather splendid, really.


The Heir Vaguely-Apparent, Cyril Ramaphosa, has made his way down the red carpet. He has been very quiet lately. Perhaps he doesn't want to be rude?



Reports of a stabbing in the fracas outside parliament are making their way onto Twitter.



The president's cavalcade, led by motorcycles, is making its way towards the building. The army, navy and air force are lining the streets.


The EFF is dancing and singing in the chamber. Probably a good idea to warm up if you are going to be wrestling a policeman later.




And here comes the presidential guard, the band in red, the soldiers in green with bayonettes fixed on their rifles.


The Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, and his deputy, Dikgang Moseneke, resplendent in the green robes of the Constitutional Court, are entering Parliament now with a gaggle of fellow judges in tow.


As they make their way through the chamber they are greeted like rock stars by the MPs who grab their hands. Always good to curry favour with a judge if you are in politics, I guess ...


Earlier, Malema and entourage put on a little show outside the chamber.



This speech promises to finally map a way out of the economic doldrums (less than one percent growth is predicted for the year). Zuma held a meeting with CEOs and afterwards, issued a very optimistic statement, saying there were “proposals on steps to be taken to prevent the sovereign downgrade”. Will there be detail in the speech? Or more task teams and nine-point plans?


The whole show is very much subdued this year due to budget cuts. The pomp and ceremony has given way to a simple red-carpet procession and loads of cops standing in front of crowd-control fences.


I’m sure the band will fire up and the presidential guard will do its thing when the president arrives.


Inside the chamber, there is a buzz. Because it is a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, the middle of the chamber has been filled with seats.


And Helen Zille has arrived ...

(Picture: Anthony Molyneaux, TMG Multimedia)




President Thabo Mbeki and his wife, Zanele, have arrived. Mbeki has recently emerged from the political shadows to write a series of articles which he claims set the record straight about controversies during his presidency.


He seems to be set on mending the rifts between himself and senior ANC persons such as Tokyo Sexwale. I was caught in the crossfire when I questioned one of the posts. It was like the good old days when Mbeki used to fire off his Friday newsletter.


Also on the red carpet, opposition leader Mmusi Maimane and his wife, Natalie.



Police are maintaining a strong presence downtown with wisps of cordite from the stun grenades in the air.



We are set for quite a showdown this evening. Julius Malema has pledged to disrupt the speech and speaker Baleka Mbete has promised to allow the president to speak uninterrupted.


Mbete said on 702 this morning: "The joint sitting where the state of the nation is a specific type of sitting. It's not a sitting where you can do anything else than allow the head of state to deliver his speech. They will have to be removed should they not cooperate with the chair."


There was a hint of steel in her comments, especially when she said: "Today as I am not unarmed and disempowered as I was this time last year."


Sunday Times reporter Aphiwe Deklerk is tweeting that EFF members are pelting the police with rocks as stun grenades are fired.



While we wait for more action at parliament, a slight digression. One of the many amusing moments generated by the 'pay back the money' battle occurred when the police minister defended the president's swimming pool as a security feature. These were his words:


"The swimming pool, an open water source, connected to the suction pump and linked to water pressure monitors to be made available on site at the private residence of the president in Nkandla; is known to be the best firefighting water source and as such the most important security feature."


Then, to the strains of opera music, firemen sprayed water from the pool into the air using a portable pump.


Over to the Sunday Times's @TheGabi to deal with the yellow dress worn by Thuli Madonsela.



The EFF’s ‘Commander-in-Chief’, Julius Malema, looking very much the man of the moment in a freshly pressed red jumpsuit, has arrived at Parliament. He is accompanied by his right- (or should that be left?) hand man, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, wearing shiny black gumboots.


The temperature is rising. Katy Katopodis is tweeting that stun grenades have been fired in Adderley Street a 'stone's throw' from parliament.



This SONA also takes place against the background of fraying racial tensions in the country. Just this afternoon, the University of Cape Town issued a statement condemning the wearing of a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Kill the whites’. They said the person wearing the shirt was not a student. At Wits earlier this week students launched an anti-white movement.


eNCA has interviewed Cope’s Mosiuoa Lekota who says: “The country is faced with a constitutional crisis. We have a president who has broken his oath of office. The Speaker of Parliament needs to explain to us why we should listen to an individual who has already broken his oath of office.” He seems to be hedging his bets on whether or not Zuma should be disrupted.


“He could say ‘I have broken my oath of office and I want the house to release me.”


Back to Julius Malema:


This really has been the year of the populist. In the UK, the unthinkable happened when Jeremy Corbin, regarded as an unelectable socialist on the fringes, won the Labour Party leadership. This week in the New Hampshire primaries, Donald Trump (Republican trash-talker) and Bernie Sanders (Democrat socialist reformer) won out. Malema is very much in their mould. It's all about overturning the establishment applecart to speak to those who feel excluded. And it's about social media, where the political conversation goes down these days. (Picture: AFP)


Thuli Madonsela is on the red carpet. She is gracious about her victory over Jacob Zuma in the 'pay back the money' scandal. "There has never been bad blood. There have been disagreements about the constitution." She has confirmed that she held a private meeting with Zuma on Friday night ... intriguing.


The real winner in the week leading up to the State of the Nation Address has been Julius Malema and his EFF. It was they who, a year ago, began the ‘pay back the money’ movement in earnest when they disrupted the 2015 SONA. They were eventually thrown out of parliament, but took the matter to the constitutional court where Zuma conceded this week to cough up for the swimming pool, cattle kraal and chicken run. See my article on RDM here.



Meanwhile, we've received this video:


Expectations hang heavily in the air ahead of this State of the Nation Address. President Jacob Zuma finds himself between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the parlous state of the South African economy and the hard place is the parlous state of his political support following events at the Constitutional Court this week. The court was the scene of one of the great political reversals of modern times when Zuma's advocate conceded that he would, after all, pay back the Nkandla money.


But the economy casts a larger shadow. This afternoon, the rand was weakening against the US dollar, a suggestion that markets are not confident that Zuma can pull an economic rabbit out the hat. He met with CEOs and was apparently advised on what he should say to stave off another ratings agency downgrade.


The red carpet is being rolled out adjacent to the statue of Nelson Mandela as protesters can be heard in the distance. This State of the Nation address takes place 26 years to the day since Mandela walked out of the gates of Victor Verster prison a free man.



Police are pushing back protesters outside Parliament.


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And this just in via Twitter:



Ses'khona Peoples Rights Movement marchers and police have been facing off in Cape Town ahead of the State of the Nation Address, due to start at 7pm. Click here to view more pictures of the lead-up to the event.


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