President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday will cost the country just over R100,000, saving the country millions of rand.
The annual address setting out the government’s plans for the year will be the fifth to be delivered by Ramaphosa since his appointment.
The ceremony has previously cost as much as R9.2m, but in 2019 the spending was capped at R2.2m.
The only costs parliament will bear this year will be that of paying for the virtual platform for capturing the proceedings, as well as purchasing candles for a candlelight ceremony in honour of more than 46,800 people who succumbed to Covid-19, revealed National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise.
Parliament has over the years embarked on a mission to cut costs of the proceedings, which will this year take place under the theme: “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Amos Masondo said the funds saved by parliament would be used to address urgent needs of the house.
“All we can say is that compared to what parliament has spent in the past, there are significant savings. All money that has not been used will be directed to urgent and serious needs in the work of parliament. One of the things we need to do is beef up our own IT,” he said.
This year’s Sona will for the first time be without thousands of guests, glitz and glamour, the red carpet, gun salute, military and police parade.
However, “adequate” security will still be implemented, according to Masondo.
Only 30 MPs (representing political parties) will be able to physically attend the proceedings. Of these, 14 will be from the ANC, five from the DA, and one each from the IFP, FF+, ACDP, GOOD, Cope, the NFP, the ATM, the AIC, and Al Jama-ah.
The EFF will not send any representatives to the in-person proceedings.
Responding to questions on this, Modise said there was nothing untoward about it.
“The EFF will participate fully, as usual, on the virtual platform … They are not the only party that has done so. Some parties are sending only one representative,” she said.
Various other invited guests are expected to attend through a non-interactive webinar with capacity for 1,000 people, according to parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mathapo.
Invited guests include the president of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADCPF), the chairperson of the AU Commission, guests of the president, representatives of civil society, faith-based organisations, and statutory and constitutional institutions.
Former president Thabo Mbeki, former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and former NCOP chairperson Mninwa Mahlangu have registered for the webinar.
Mathapo said parliament was confident that the country’s first hybrid Sona would run smoothly on the anniversary of former president Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
“That Sunday in 1990 was a watershed in our struggle for a non-democratic, non-racial, non-sexist SA, founded on supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.”
Mathapo said the address was an opportunity for Ramaphosa to speak to the nation about a variety of domestic and global issues, as well as provide an update on the country’s progress with the government’s existing commitments and key plans for the year ahead.