All eyes on Parliament

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pretoria – All eyes will be on President Jacob Zuma tonight as he delivers the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament.

The speech will spell out government’s plans for the coming year and what progress has been made in the implementation of various programmes aimed at improving the lives of South Africans.  The event is commonly referred to as the annual opening of Parliament, but there’s more to it.

The annual address is a platform for the President to account to Parliament and the nation and to give direction and set the tone for the year ahead. The address usually covers a wide range of issues, including political, economic and social matters and considers the general state of South Africa.

It is an important means for the government to account to Parliament and the South African public for what has happened over the past year, and to inform as well as involve the public in the political agenda of the coming year.

President Zuma has delivered the annual speech eight times.

At 7pm, he will address the joint sitting for his second SONA in the current administration. His first address was in June last year, following the elections of the previous month.

There will be the usual pomp and ceremony that goes hand-in-hand with the opening of Parliament. This includes the parade by the South African National Defence Force band, the traditional 21-gun salute and the singing of the national anthem shortly after 6:30 pm.  

The event is also an opportunity for citizens to see the who’s who of the country dressed to the nines for the opening of Parliament.

In recent years, the occasion has also been a chance for ordinary citizens, especially children, to become part of this special day.  It is one of the rare occasions where the three arms of State - the executive, the legislature and the judiciary - gather in one place.

This week, Parliamentary presiding officers said it was all systems go for the big day.

The speech tonight comes as the country enters a third decade of freedom and the rolling out of the National Development Plan. It will also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the release of former President Nelson Mandela from prison in February 1990.

This week, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe called on the nation to engage meaningfully with the speech and “not just tune in”.

“Together we can become the change we want to see,” he wrote in an opinion piece, adding that it was not good enough to assume that government alone can solve the challenges South Africa faces.  He said in his address the President will once again chart a course that seeks to address the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality to move the nation forward.

“Our nation was built on the premise that we would not be defined by our brutal past; therefore every citizen can and must do their part to move South Africa forward.” – SAnews.gov.za

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