#Sona2016: Parliament’s rules will be put to the test

The president will deliver his 8th State of the Nation Address in Parliament at 7pm this evening.

FILE: South African Parliament. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Parliament's rules are set to be put to the test when President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona) this evening.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are expected to challenge Zuma to explain why he sacked former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, causing the rand's value to plummet.

The question is whether the party will act within the rules.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete is also armed with a new rule adopted late last year, which allows the physical removal - if necessary - of members of Parliament (MPs) who disrupt and defy the chair.

Zuma's address is the only item on the agenda.

But that doesn't prevent MPs from rising on points of order or privilege.

However, to get the presiding officer's permission to speak, they'll have to be within the rules.

Secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso says, "If there's been a breach of parliamentary procedure then there could be a point of order. But a point of order must be on that."

Xaso says points of privilege are valid only where an MP is being prevented from performing their duty in terms of the powers and privileges of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.

But much will depend on the rules being applied fairly.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Chief Whip Narend Singh says he is expecting sparks to fly this evening.

"We expect a lot of disruptions in the house before the president is allowed to make his speech. As the IFP we believe the president is the president until further developments, and we have to hear him out."

PREPARATIONS AT PARLIAMENT

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli says they're taking no chances.

"It might be true that in fact perhaps, because of the publicly stated threats and so on, it might have been upped in some way or another."

Workers are putting the finishing touches to the event, preparing the red carpet, which will see dozens of MPs and dignitaries make their way into the National Assembly.

Several buses ferrying VIPS have already arrived.

Inside, workers are feverishly busy, making sure everything is in its place and spotless.

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