Parliament is gearing up for the official start to its year – the State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday evening.
The opening of Parliament will see the usual ceremony, with a mounted police escort and a military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the president’s route by the SA National Defence Force, a national salute by the SANDF’s Ceremonial Guard, a salute flight and a 21-gun salute from the SA Air Force, and music from the SAAF band.
As became customary during Nelson Mandela’s presidency, there will also be considerable civilian participation, with various invited groups lining the path walked by the president from the spruced-up Slave Lodge to the dais in front of the National Assembly building.
As Zuma enters the National Assembly to address the joint sitting of the two houses at 7pm, he is to be greeted by a praise singer from the Free State, Mahlola April Moloi.
The address traditionally sets the tone for the year ahead for both Parliament and the government, and sees the president assessing the work that has been done and the agenda for the coming year.
Guests present in the public gallery to hear Zuma’s address range from members of the public who took part in a radio campaign and whose names were selected in a random draw, and some of the country’s top matriculants, to cabinet ministers from neighbouring states and foreign diplomats.
Likely to be present are several former presidents and deputy presidents of South Africa, including Thabo Mbeki, Baleka Mbete, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and FW de Klerk.
The budget for this year’s State of the Nation address is a whopping R6.8 million, which, according to parliamentary authorities, will cover all the costs involved for the big day.
Parliament’s theme for this year’s address is “socio-economic development through oversight and public participation”.
The address will be streamed live on Parliament’s website and broadcast live on radio and television, and the Government Communication and Information System has arranged for its broadcast on big screens in all provinces.