Remembering lives lost to COVID: Ramaphosa to light candles ahead of Sona

Parliament’s presiding officers, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo, have been briefing the media on final preparations for Sona.

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

CAPE TOWN - Before he delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will first take part in a candle-lighting ceremony to mark all the lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parliament’s presiding officers, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo have been briefing the media on final preparations for Sona on Wednesday.

Set to take place on Thursday at 7 pm, this will be the first Sona to take place in hybrid form, with only 50 people in the chamber and the rest connected online.

This year’s Sona will be free of frills and fanfare, but there will be a solemn moment when Ramaphosa lights candles in remembrance of those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

Modise said: “We want to express our loss in the simplest way we can as Parliament on this serious loss that we are suffering as a country because of COVID-19. We will be very solemn. We are hurting, we have lost members, we have lost relatives - South Africans are dying.”

A recording of a poem by Eastern Cape poet, singer and film producer, Siphokazi Jonas, will be played during the ceremony and Ramaphosa will then go on to deliver his speech.

Parliament said it was confident everything would run smoothly. There’ll be 30 members of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces in the chamber, as well as Deputy President David Mabuza.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and the Supreme Court of Appeal’s Justice Dumisani Zondi will be present to represent the judiciary. The dean of the resident diplomatic corps Ambassador Bene L M’poko will represent ambassadors.

Guests and dignitaries who will join proceedings virtually include former President Thabo Mbeki, former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Speaker Baleka Mbete and former NCOP chairperson Mninwa Mahlangu.

The webinar can link up to 1,000 people, but there will be no interaction on the night, the stage will belong just to Ramaphosa as he delivers his speech to the nation. Modise estimates the cost of the webinar to be around R100 000, far less than the R2.2 million that has been budgeted for the event.

Parties will debate the speech during plenary sittings on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and Ramaphosa will reply to that debate next Thursday.

NO SECURITY

Besides no pomp and ceremony at Thursday’s Sona, Parliament will also be without soldiers and police. That’s the message from Modise.

She said on Tuesday, the Presiding Officers received a final briefing about preparations to host the address from Parliament’s Sona Project Team.

She said measures were in place to ensure wide public access to the event, while observing COVID-19 protocols.

Security will also be scaled down as a result.

While there will be a few road closures outside of Parliament, there will be no security within the precinct.

“As far as we know, within the Parliament precinct, there will be no security and that is where our jurisdiction starts and ends as Parliament.”

Modise said the road closures might be related to planned marches that would take place within the city.

“We do know that there are a number of people and organisations that want to march and I was saying, perhaps subject to confirmation with the security cluster ministers, they can tell us whether the road closures are related to the that.”

Modise added there would be no ceremony and walking about in the precinct, saying the day would be a solemn affair because of the loss of life due to COVID-19.

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