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No mbongi for Ramaphosa Sona as Parliament cuts budget to R2mln

Due to the May elections, it will be the second State of the Nation Address this year.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa, First Lady Tshepo Motsepe and National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise at Sona 2019. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Parliament is cutting back on some of the pomp and ceremony for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) next week in a bid to cut costs in the face of the economic challenges the country is experiencing.

Cold and rainy weather forecast for next Thursday may also give rise to changes to the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) programme for the event.

Parliament’s presiding officers on Thursday briefed journalists on preparations for the event, for which R2 million has been budgeted. Due to the May elections, it will be the second State of the Nation Address in one year.

Parliament said the ceremony cost R9.2 million five years ago.

Deputy National Assembly Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said there would be no junior or civil guard of honour for the state procession and eminent persons from the nine provinces wouldn’t be present.

There’ll also be no praise singer, or imbongi, to lead Ramaphosa into the chamber.

“The occasion will still present the decorum and solemnity of a key state event of this magnitude. In making these modifications, the prevailing economic hardships that continue to face most South Africans, and the expected unfavourable weather conditions, have been taken into account,” Tsenoli said.

Tsenoli said a comprehensive wet-weather plan was in place in case of rain and wind, while 1,200 guests had been invited.

February’s Sona had also been allocated a R2m budget but ended up costing R1.6 million.

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise said she hoped next week’s Sona would also come in under budget.

The R2 million budget excludes the amount to be spent by the SANDF on its part of the programme, which includes a military salute, a fly-past, bands and guards of honour, but which could also change in case of bad weather.

NO DISRUPTIONS EXPECTED

Modise said Parliament was not expecting any disruption of next week’s Sona.

She said Parliament would rely on its rules to maintain order during the joint sitting on Thursday when Ramaphosa will spell out the government’s plans for the rest of the year.

Modise had to step in on Wednesday to restore order to a training session for MPs after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African National Congress got involved in a scuffle in the Old Assembly Chamber.

She said no extraordinary security measures would be in place for the event.

“We will ensure that there is decorum. If anything happens, we will fall back on our rules and do what we usually do, strictly go through the session relying on the rules of a joint sitting of Parliament."

Modise said she hoped there would be no need for Parliament’s protection services, the so-called white shirts, who’ve previously forcibly ejected members of the EFF.

“I am hoping that we’re not going to use any of them.”

EFF MP Marshall Dlamini is facing assault charges after slapping a police officer following February’s Sona.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)

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