Big guns to roll out for SONA debate

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IOL jacob zuma sona 2014 inside Reuters The parliamentary debate from Tuesday until Thursday, when President Jacob Zuma replies to the commentary on his State of the Nation Address, comes just over two months ahead of the May 7 elections. Picture: Roger Bosch

Cape Town - With more than eight hours set aside to debate the State of the Nation address in Parliament this week, political parties are expected to bring out their big guns for what promises to be the perfect electioneering platform.

The parliamentary debate from Tuesday until Thursday, when President Jacob Zuma replies to the commentary on the address he delivered on Thursday, comes just over two months ahead of the May 7 elections.

It is understood the ANC is set to continue telling the “good story” of its successes, not just in the past five years, but since the start of democracy in 1994, in line with the tone Zuma set during his speech last Thursday.

As part of this strategic approach, all but one of the ANC speakers comes from the ranks of cabinet ministers. It is understood ANC chief whip Stone Sizani is not participating, but on the speakers’ list is ANC MP Annelize van Wyk, who chairs the parliamentary police committee.

Van Wyk, who in August 2012 was given the podium during a tense parliamentary debate on the Marikana shootings in which 34 miners died, was expected to talk this week on police action at recent service delivery protests, which left 10 dead.

Similarly, it is understood each of the ministers has been given a specific area to focus on.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande is expected to speak on eduction – his portfolio received a boost when Zuma last week announced financial aid to students had increased to R9 million.

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor could, aside from highlighting the roll-out of smart IDs and Home Affairs improvements, also crack the political whip: on several occasions over the past year she sharply commented on DA politicking, like the “Know your DA” campaign.

Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu may well talk on an improved public service. The ANC speakers’ list is expected to also include Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti and Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana.

On the other side of the House, is DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko who has set the tone of what can be expected, by arguing the state of the nation was poorer for the lack of leadership by Zuma.

Supporting Mazibuko are nine DA MPs, including Ian Ollis, expected to tackle e-tolls and Gauteng-related matters generally, and Tim Harris, who will highlight the ANC’s broken promises on the economic front.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota will head his team of three, while IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi leads his party.

In past years Buthelezi has often focused on the state of IFP-ANC relations, alongside IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who continues to battle terminal cancer.

Also, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder and ACDP head Kenneth Meshoe are expected to take to the podium to give their views on the state of the nation in just a handful of minutes.

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