No red carpets and only 50 MPs in the house - Here’s how this year’s Sona will be different

28 January 2021 - 13:37 By cebelihle bhengu
Model Babalwa Mneno struts the red carpet at Sona 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has seemingly put the brakes on extravagance at this year's Sona.
Model Babalwa Mneno struts the red carpet at Sona 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has seemingly put the brakes on extravagance at this year's Sona.
Image: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the state of the nation address (Sona) on February 11, spokesperson for parliament Moloto Mothapo announced on Wednesday.

Moloto said Ramaphosa has been preparing for the address since last year through engagements with various stakeholders.

He said the Sona “provides the president with an opportunity to speak to the nation on the general state of SA, to reflect on a wide range of political, economic and social matters within the domestic and global contexts, to account to the nation on the work of government and to set out the programme of action for the coming year”.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and need for strict adherence to the Disaster Management Act regulations, parliament said the national legislature will hold a hybrid sitting and announced the following changes:

  • No more than 50 people will be allowed in the National Assembly chamber. Most members of the house will join the Sona virtually.
  • There will be no red carpet or procession of the three arms of state.
  • There will be no imbongi (praise poet), military parade leading the presidential procession, guard of honour by the National Ceremonial Guard, or 21-gun salute.
  • R2.2m is set aside for the Sona, but parliament is looking at spending less than R1m. The remaining savings will be used towards “modernising the technological capabilities of parliament to enhance its constitutional functions of public participation, oversight and lawmaking”. 

Speaker Thandi Modise said the changes demonstrate the governments “sensitivity” to what the rest of South Africans are going through.

“We are part of society. Our people are going through these challenges of Covid-19. We cannot be insulated from what they are going through,” she said.

“Even though we have enough space in the National Assembly chambers, we keep to the confinements of the regulations of Covid.”

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