Parliament - President Jacob Zuma must use his State of the Nation address (SONA) on Thursday to win back the trust of South African citizens, a senior political analyst said ahead of the event.
“I think it really has to try to regain the trust of the citizens. The trust in Zuma is at an all time low, the trust in the major institutions like Parliament is at an all time low,” said Stellenbosch University political analyst Amanda Gouws.
“What Zuma has to do is to try and not make empty promises but certain promsises that will restore trust in government.”
While the nation's eyes will turn to Zuma to spell out his government's priorities for the next year, the country's security forces, combined with parliamentary security, will be keeping watch over the events unfolding before he speaks.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have already warned Zuma would not be able to deliver his address until he answers questions on why he axed former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.
Last year, the party followed through on its threat to not let Zuma speak until he answered questions on when he would pay back a portion of the state money used for security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.
The party's firebrand leader Julius Malema and his fellow MPs were forcibly removed before Zuma could take to the podium.
Gouws said while she believed the EFF has valid complaints, it was not the time to engage in “disruptive politics”.
“I think it's detrimental to orderly politics and while the Nkandla saga was a valid issue, I think that the situation with Nene has been resolved so it's not worthwhile to cause these disruptions at a time that is really critical in the history of South Africa.”
Gouws was refering to calls for Zuma to make key anouncements on how government would increase investor confidence in South Africa as the country battles with sluggish economic growth, that has pushed it to the brink of a recession.
In its wishlist, issued on Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was critical that Zuma commit his government to averting another credit rating downgrade, which could damage the economy even further.
“Our fragile economy will struggle to recover from being downgraded to 'junk status', and the president must guarantee the country that he will do all it takes to prevent this in 2016,” said Mabine Seabe, spokesperson for DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
Seabe said he also expected Zuma to announce concrete plans on how government would raise capital to keep the service delivery machine working.
“This plan ought to exclude more costly borrowing, and without squeezing more tax out of already overburdened taxpayers. The president ought to be particularly bold in this area, and should commit to selling off state assets and cutting waste.”
The party said planned disruptions by the EFF, would “rob South Africans” of an opportunity to holding Zuma accountable in a time where there were “numerous social and economic crises crippling our country's growth”.
“Parliament is meant to ensure executive accountability and facilitate robust debate. There is nothing revolutionary about pointless points of order and privilege and the DA calls for calm and an adherence to the joint rules of Parliament by all parties and the presiding officers on Thursday.”
While Speaker Baleka Mbete this week downplayed security concerns ahead of the SONA, she did warn that new parliamentary rules adopted last year would be invoked to ensure that there was order in the House.
The new rules make it possible for South African MPs who refuse an order by a presiding officer to leave the National Assembly chamber to be evicted from the parliamentary precinct by members of the parliamentary security services.
Last year, Parliament recruited a number of former police officials as members of the parliamentary protection services following an outcry over the use of police officials dressed in white shirts to remove EFF MPs from the House last year.
“We will apply the rules, yes. Have no doubt about it,” Mbete said in the strongest indication yet that EFF MPs will most likely be booted out if they followed through on their latest threat.
The parliamentary protection guard would be assisted in their duties by police and other security agencies of the State, should the need arise, Mbete said.
Police officers would also be deployed around the parliamentary precinct to ensure that protestors do not make it through the barricades set up in the city centre as part of security arrangements for the SONA.
The City of Cape Town has approved plans by three groups to gather on Thursday.
This includes a protest by the DA in Mill Street, Gardens, set for between 9 and 11am. The Ses'khona People's Rights Movement has been granted permission to gather at Kaizergracht, in District Six, between 10am and 2h30pm.
The #ZumaMustFall movement will march from Greenmarket Square to the Grand Parade.
Capetonians should brace for a lockdown of many major streets surrounding the parliamentary precinct on Thursday.