What to expect from SONA

Academics look at the significance of this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

FILE: Rolling out the red carpet for the State of the Nation Address on 14 February 2013. Picture: Renee de Villiers/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The 2014 State of the Nation Address (SONA) will be delivered against the significant milestone of 20 years of democracy in South Africa.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to paint an overview with broad brushstrokes about government's plan for the coming year and also reflect on the past year in office.

University of Cape Town Politics Lecturer Zwelethu Jolobe says the president will want his speech to reflect the upcoming polls.

"Because we have a five-year electoral cycle, it will be tied to election goals. The plan will be from a 15-year perspective and it will look at goals of the last few years and say where we are with that. It's basically a report back to the nation."

The opening of Parliament is marked with much pomp and ceremony.

Politicians are usually seen in a different light, walking the red carpet in the latest fashion designs.

The speech by Zuma is delivered at a joint-sitting of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

It is one of the rare occasions where the three arms of state, namely the executive, represented by the president, deputy president and ministers, the judiciary, represented by the country's chief justice and the judge presidents, and the legislature, represented by the Members of Parliament (MPs), assemble in one place.

Jolobe says that he expects the president to expand on the themes of economy and unemployment in his speech.

"This government came into office during a global economic crisis and a lot of its work was shaped by that. A lot of people are in debt," he says.

Jolobe also commented on unemployment, saying, "There's no coherent plan to deal with this.

"It's not just a problem that we face. They [government] have identified the National Development Plan (NDP) as an answer to unemployment."

The NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

"SONA is a first cut, then follows the budget speech and the budget votes of different departments. There is always a difference between what we want them to say and what they say."

Stellenbosch University Bureau of Economic Research senior economist Hugo Pienaar concurred with Jolobe.

He says SONA sets the scene for what might be expected in the budget.

Pienaar downplayed the impact of SONA.

"There's no major reaction to SONA, unless there are major announcements. It will probably focus on infrastructure, given the current protests and a bit of focus on what government has done and plans going forward. Financial markets don't pay much attention to SONA."

To see SONA Cape Town road closures click here.