Parliament a hive of activity ahead of Zuma’s speech

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cape Town - Scores of people have started thronging around the Parliamentary Precinct in Cape Town, as the countdown to this year’s much-awaited State of the Nation Address (SONA) began on Thursday afternoon.

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba were among the first few dignitaries to arrive for the event.

Security is tight around Parliament and nearby shops have been asked to close. Like every year, the area around the red carpet is expected to be transformed into a showcase of the latest fashion trends and traditional African outfits.

For many, the SONA is not just about the speech, but an opportunity to showcase the pride people have for South Africa’s constitutional democracy and what the country has achieved since 1994.

Millions of South Africans will be tuned in to their televisions sets as President Jacob Zuma delivers the 2014 speech, which is expected will spell out how the country has done in the past year and government’s future plans.

Zuma will deliver his address to a joint sitting of Parliament in Cape Town at 7pm. The speech will be broadcast live on SABC and, as well as on many radio stations.

It is probably one of Zuma’s most important speeches, as South Africa marks 20 years of freedom and democracy this year. Zuma's address comes after government’s adoption of the National Development Plan, which makes far-reaching policy proposals to direct the country's development over the years to come.

It will also be the last State of the Nation Address for the current administration, whose electoral term comes to an end in April. The address is expected to be a serious balancing act that will cover both the two decades of democracy and the last five years of the current administration.

School children are lining up Parliament Street towards the National Assembly, and are waving mini South African flags and singing the national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.  Local and international broadcasters have set up makeshift studios around the venue to take the speech live. 

Authorities are expecting a higher attendance and viewership for this year’s address.

Speaking to SAnews, SA National Council of Provinces Chairperson Mninwa Mahlangu said the event was historic.

“We are marking 20 years of our democracy and that is a milestone for us, a moment to reflect and look back on what we have done and what still needs to be done,” said Mahlangu.

Mahlangu said the three spheres of government have worked well since 1994 to consolidate the country’s democracy, adding that Parliament remained a key player in this regard.

“We must make sure that we plan together as the three spheres of government, and that coordination is very critical if we are to keep this together and retain the trust of our people in this democracy,” he said. –