LOOK: No hive of activity at Parliament ahead of Covid-hit SONA 2021
Cape Town - There can be no doubt that this year’s State of the Nation Address will be unlike any other. No pre-SONA cocktail parties, no red carpet and no hijinks in the Chamber when President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks.
The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the most spectacular event on South Africa’s political calendar to a stay-at-home online meeting for most politicians.
Only 29 Members of Parliament will join President Ramaphosa in the National Assembly for the hybrid sitting. All other MPs, dignitaries and guests will join the sitting virtually.
Joining Ramaphosa in the Chamber will be Deputy President David Mabuza, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Dumisani H Zondi who will represent the judiciary. The Dean of the resident Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Bene L M’Poko, will represent ambassadors.
With just 50 people attending the annual even this year, the preparations in the parliamentary precinct and on the surrounding streets in the Cape Town CBD also lacked the usual hustle and bustle.
Only a handful of maintenance and facilities staff could be seen tying down banners, adjusting flags and putting a last lick of polish on the cobbled area outside Parliament.
While the pandemic is uppermost in everyone’s mind, it is important to acknowledge the significance of the SONA taking place on the 31st anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
Parliament’s presiding officers on Wednesday reiterated that Mandela’s release marked “a watershed in our struggle for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa, founded on supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.”