It's all systems go for Sona but without the glitz and glamour
Parliament has finalised logistics for the 2021 state of the nation address (Sona) to be attended in person by only a handful of guests on Thursday evening due to Covid-19.
The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 45,000 people in SA.
The annual address setting out the government's plans for the year will be the fifth to be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa. It will take place on the 31st anniversary of former president Nelson Mandela's release from prison.
This year, it will be delivered under the theme “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.
A candle-lighting ceremony led by Ramaphosa and the presiding officers of parliament will precede the address.
The event traditionally features a red carpet, glitz and glamour with hundreds of guests, But this time it will be different, with only 30 MPs permitted to physically attend, according to National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise.
Those attending will include Ramaphosa, his deputy David Mabuza, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo and justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Dumisani Zondi, who will represent the judiciary. Dean of the resident diplomatic corps ambassador Bene M’Poko will represent ambassadors.
All other MPs will attend the ceremony virtually.
Various other invited guests are expected to attend through a non-interactive webinar with capacity for 1,000 people, according to parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mathapo.
Invited guests include the president of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADCPF), the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, guests of the president, and representatives of civil society, faith-based organisations, and statutory and constitutional institutions.
Former president Thabo Mbeki, former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and former National Council of Provinces chairperson Mninwa Mahlangu have registered for the webinar.
Mathapo said parliament was confident that the country's first hybrid Sona would run smoothly on the anniversary of Mandela's release from prison.
“That Sunday in 1990 was a watershed in our struggle for a non-democratic, non-racial, non-sexist SA, founded on supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
“The 2021 Sona, scheduled for 7pm, comes at a time of great anxiety and hardship as SA and the world fights the deadly pandemic,” said Mathapo.
The address has been criticised over the years for being without substance and lacking solutions to issues faced by the country.