Cape Town – National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete says no members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be deployed within the Parliamentary precinct during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday.
Parliament’s presiding officers briefed journalists on Wednesday evening on the state of readiness to host the SONA.
The Presidency issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the deployment of 441 members of the SANDF between 5 and 10 February to maintain law and order during the opening of Parliament where the President will deliver the SONA speech.
The announcement was met with criticism with some arguing that there is no place for soldiers in the parliamentary precinct.
“We hope that you will by now have seen our statement that was attempting to clarify and make sure there is no confusion about members of the defence force that we are not going to see many or hundreds of the defence force members around the precinct of Parliament.
“Those people will not be anywhere around Parliament and they are simply going to be allowed to be wherever they ought to be as soldiers,” Mbete said.
All systems go for SONA 2017
The Speaker added that it was “all systems go” and that Parliament was ready to once again host a joint-sitting where President Jacob Zuma will deliver his speech, which usually sets the scene on government’s plan of action for the year.
“… We are indeed ready to run a successful, orderly State of the Nation Address tomorrow evening.
“We have observed that there are great levels of enthusiasm among many guests who are coming from all over the country, different sectors and organs of state,” she said.
The Speaker said attending the State of the Nation Address will be international guests, including a top executive of the World Bank, Former President Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele Mbeki, the former Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, the Mayor of Cape Town and provincial speakers.
The long guest list, the Speaker said, also extend to leaders of organised labour, multi-faith organisations, leaders of political parties and business leaders, among others.
Presiding officers have received a report from the Secretary of Parliament and that they are satisfied that they are ready to host the SONA.