Alarming first quarter economic activity data released on 3 June by Statistics SA having necessitated ‘appropriate’ State of the Nation Address (Sona) cost-cutting measures, Thursday’s event will be even less lavish than the one staged in February. According to speaking notes used by Parliament’s presiding officers during a media briefing on Friday, due cognisance has been taken not only of the financial ‘hardships’ facing most South Africans but also of weather conditions expected to be less than favourable. While R2m has been budgeted for the event, indications are that ‘significantly less’ will be spent, writes Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch.
‘The decorum and solemnity of a key state event of this magnitude’ will nevertheless be preserved. This is noting that, at Thursday’s Sona, SA’s new legislative arm will – for the first time since being elected – ‘converge in one place’ with the country’s executive and judiciary. Most importantly, however, debates following the address will provide Parliament with an opportunity to ‘interrogate the plans of government’, ‘facilitate public involvement’ and put in place the legislative interventions required to improve service delivery.
Expected to be ‘the cheapest in five years’ (Business Insider), February’s Sona cost R400 000 less than budgeted – in keeping with a pattern of ‘steady savings’ begun in 2014, when the traditional gala dinner was dropped. Interestingly, Thursday’s event will be the first without an imbongi (praise singer) to usher the President into the House. Given SA’s far-from-desirable state after years of blatant mismanagement, perhaps the time has come to put a stop to all the other pomp and ceremony – at least until the country is firmly back on track.
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