Parliament is set to present the State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 8 February, a day which is rich with symbolism and state ceremonial activities which showcases the country’s cultural diversity.
The 2018 SONA comes at a special time – as the country marks the centenary anniversary of the birth of South Africa’s first democratically elected president, the late Nelson Mandela.
In paying homage to the life and legacy of this remarkable South African and father of the nation who is revered around the world, Parliament has decided that the theme that will inspire and guide its work during the year 2018 shall be: “Making your future work better – learning from Madiba”.
Preparations for the SONA are almost complete for what is known as the most inclusive day in the political and parliamentary calendar – the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. A total of 1 120 guests have been invited to form part of this important occasion.
The day brings together the three arms of the state: the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – who will play out their constitutional roles in full view of the nation.
From the red carpet, mounted police escort and a military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the President’s route by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), a national salute, military band, a fly-past and a 21-gun salute, the day is colourful and also sees ordinary citizens, especially children, participating.
Proceedings at Parliament start at around 16.30. This will see members of the Judiciary, Speakers of Provincial Legislatures, Provincial Premiers and Diplomats arrive at the Company Gardens entrance (in Government Avenue) to the Old Assembly.
Junior and Civil Guards of Honour and Eminent Persons take up positions on both sides of the red carpet along Parliament Street from the entrance to the Parliamentary precinct.
This Junior Guard of Honour comprises students from schools that have represented South Africa or their province at international, national, provincial or local level competitions in areas of sports, the arts, cultural activities or any other competition that has helped to positively profile the country, province or locality.
Eminent South Africans who are invited, are drawn from the provinces and are individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the country.
Then, former presidents, former deputy presidents, the former national assembly speaker and former chief justices arrive.
This will be followed by a procession of premiers, speakers of provincial legislatures, judiciary, parliament’s presiding officers, Deputy President and the President.
The President will take the national salute on a podium outside the National Assembly building (at 18.55) which includes the 21 gun salute. A fly past by the South African Air Force takes place at the same time.
The 21-gun salute became the international norm for the highest honour a nation rendered and it is fired in honour of the Head of State, the national flag, the Head of State of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family and a former Head of State.
The President will then be ushered in the National Assembly by a performance from an Imbongi [praise poet].
The President is expected to deliver his address in the National Assembly Chamber at 19.00.
Ordinary South Africans can watch the entire proceedings live on their televisions, radio and at public viewing sites in provinces.