Pretoria – With just two weeks before President Jacob Zuma takes to the podium to deliver the State of Nation Address (SONA), Parliament’s Presiding Officers say their preparations are at an advanced stage.
The officers are confident that Parliament will again host a successful event, which also marks the opening of Parliament.
President Zuma is set to deliver his address to a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) at 7pm on 11 February.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said on Thursday, preparations for the event had already begun last year.
“This is an annual event and our preparations started last year already around September as this is the single most important activity of the country.”
The SONA is important for all South Africans as it outlines government’s Programme of Action for the year ahead and also gives the President a platform to provide an assessment of the country’s current political and socio-economic state.
Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, reiterated Mbete’s sentiments that preparations are well underway.
Mgidlana said they have been working with a number of stakeholders who are involved in planning the SONA from the Executive, Parliament, Provinces and Judiciary.
“We have also worked out the specific logistics to ensure that Parliament is ready to receive the guests and to host. Preparations are well afoot. At this point in time we are doing small final touches.”
Parliament’s Presiding Officers, led by Mbete, meet with the Diplomatic Corps in Pretoria, earlier on Thursday.
The meeting, according to Mbete, focused on various issues of mutual interest and the diplomatic community responded positively and with eagerness to them.
Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Speaker and the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Bene M’Poko said the meeting was important as it gave them clarity on South Africa’s Parliamentary role.
“This type of interaction was long overdue. We have learned a lot. The exchange was dynamic.”
He said the ambassadors and high commissioners where interested in knowing how South Africa has consolidated its young democracy.
“South Africa is a young country, 21-years-old, but if you look at the road it has travelled, we have noticed that it has made a lot of progress.
“So there was a question on how did you manage to move together, how did you reconcile with people coming from different backgrounds and deal with issues of democracy,” said M’Poko.
The Diplomatic Corps, he said, was also interested in the training of new members of Parliament in order to cope with the new rules and roles.
The two sides have committed to hold similar and regular engagements of this nature annually.