Parly gears up for mega SONA

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cape Town - Parliament is gearing up for this year's State of the Nation Address (SONA) which is expected to be extra special and draw larger crowds as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of former President Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

An estimated 1 500 people are expected to gather around the National Assembly to welcome parliamentarians, political heads, ambassadors, high commissioners and invited international guests who will be attending the opening of parliament by President Jacob Zuma.

Parliament's spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said due to the number of festivities planned, the number of visitors is expected to be much higher as compared to previous years.

"We are definitely expecting a bigger number this year, much higher than anything we've seen before," he said.

Several dignitaries, including Mandela's fellow inmates from the 1963 infamous treason trial, are expected to attend a reception at the Victor Verster Prison.

It is at this prison where Mandela symbolically ended his long walk to freedom after spending 27 years behind bars for his political beliefs.

It's been confirmed however that the 90-year-old Madiba will not be attending the reception but will be present during the delivery of the SONA in Parliament in the evening.

The country's defence force is expected to put up a spectacular show to mark one of parliament's most prestigious events in its yearly calendar. .

Onlookers were treated to a stunning demonstration by members of the South African National Defence Force who lined up the streets leading to parliament on Tuesday afternoon as part of preparations for the big day.

Meanwhile, Zuma is expected to meet and congratulate learners who have participated in a SONA debate competition later today.

The competition, that saw learners from all the nine provinces deliberating on the SONA, is an initiative of insurance company Sanlam and Government Communications (GCIS). The learners will also help Zuma "edit" the SONA ahead of his delivery tomorrow evening.