Five years ago, the state of the nation address (Sona) set taxpayers back R9.2 million. Due to a tougher economic climate, this will be cut back to a budget of R2 million for the upcoming Sona, which will be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa on June 20, parliament said on Thursday.
Cost-cutting measures by parliament will take into account “the prevailing economic hardships facing most South Africans”, says deputy speaker Lechasa Tsenoli.
In February, even less than the budget of R2 million set aside for Sona was spent, with R1.6 million being the total spending, according to Tsenoli.
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise said she was hoping they would come in under budget once again.
“I hope it goes below R2 million,” she said.
The cost-cutting will include no post-Sona dinner provided for MPs and guests and the elimination of the junior guard and civil guard from the state procession that precedes the speech. Tsenoli also announced that the imbongi [praise singer] who usually ushers the president into chambers will be sitting out in the upcoming address.
Some 1,200 guests have been invited to attend. They include former presidents, deputy presidents, presiding officers, chief justices and the last two surviving members of the Rivonia trial, liberation struggle activists Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg.
Modise also said no disruptions were expected for Sona despite concerns following a fight between EFF and ANC members in parliament during an induction session on Wednesday.
“We’ll ensure that there is decorum. If anything happens, we’ll follow our rules and strictly go to the session relying on the rules of the joint sitting,” she said.
During former president Jacob Zuma’s second term as president, common disruptions to his Sona were EFF members demanding that he “pay back the money” spent on upgrading his Nkandla homestead.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, ANA)