Parliament introduces new rules for SONA proceedings

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Parliament has introduced a set of new joint rules designed to regulate proceedings during the joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and which prohibit disruptions.

Addressing a media briefing on preparations to host SONA 2024, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the new joint rules are aimed at maintaining order, decorum in the Chamber, and promoting civility among members.

“These rules, set to be implemented for the first time during this State of the Nation Address, are an essential step in ensuring that the proceedings, including the SONA, and the opening of Parliament are conducted with the respect and seriousness they deserve.

“In terms of the new rules, no member is allowed to interrupt the President while delivering the State of the Nation Address. Similarly, interruptions are prohibited during the President’s speech at the opening of Parliament. Additionally these rules stipulate that no other business may be considered during a joint sitting other than the specific business for which the joint sitting is convened.

“These measures are critical in ensuring that these important national events are conducted in an orderly and respectful manner, reflecting the dignity of Parliament and the importance of these addresses in setting the nation’s legislative and development agenda,” she said on Tuesday in Cape Town.

Scheduled to take place on 8 February at 7pm at Cape Town City Hall, this will be the last SONA for the sixth administration.

The event will take place under the theme: “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.

SONA is a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament – the National Assembly and the NCOP - presided over jointly by the Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP. It brings together the three arms of the state under one roof.

Convened by the President as per the Constitution, SONA serves to update the nation on government commitments and to outline the government’s programme of action for the new financial year.

“The President’s speech is the sole agenda item. Following this, Members of Parliament will engage in a two-day joint debate on the address, with the President’s reply scheduled for the subsequent day.

“As of February 1, Cape Town City Hall has been designated as the parliamentary precinct, in accordance with Section 2 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act,” she said.

SONA will be broadcast live on radio and TV and streamed live on Parliament’s website, the DStv channel (408), and YouTube channel.

“The Cape Town City Hall will also host the two-day debate on the President’s address, featuring a joint sitting of the Houses, and the President’s reply to the debate.

“Additionally, it will be the venue for the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech, scheduled a few days later. All attendees, including Members of Parliament (MPs) and invited guests, will be attending physically,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Approximately 490 Members of Parliament and representatives of the South African Local Government Association will be seated in the chamber.

“These SONA proceedings will maintain the full ceremonial format of previous years. The activities include a 21-gun salute, an aircraft flypast, a ceremonial guard, the step guard salute, the singing of the national anthem, a full military band, and ceremonial processions involving provincial Speakers, Premiers, the judiciary, the Deputy President, and the President.

“The President will take a salute on the platform in front of the Madiba statue, located on the City Hall balcony. This position offers an optimal view of the national anthem performance by the South African National Defence Force military band, synchronised with the 21-gun salute and fly-past,” the Speaker said.

The critical element of public participation of the involvement of the junior guard of honour and eminent persons has been reinstated. The Junior Guard of Honour consists of 100 learners, selected from four schools in the Western Cape.

“The praise singer tasked with ushering the President into the House is Senziwe Hatty Maliba, also known as Nkosatane Nziwe, a 24-year-old young woman from the Nkomazi Municipality in the Mpumalanga province. The choice of language for the Imbongi is determined through a rotational selection process, and SiSwati has been chosen as the language for this occasion,” Mapisa-Nqakula said. –