Baleka Mbete, speaker of the National Assembly, announces that the State of the Nation address, due to be delivered by President Jacob Zuma has been postponed. Picture: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Cape Town - The decision to postpone the 2018 State of the Nation Address was taken in the best interests of Parliament and the country, the presiding officers of Parliament said on Tuesday.

Speaker Baleka Mbete on Tuesday announced the postponement SONA, which was to have taken place on Thursday evening.

The announcement comes after rising calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down and to not deliver SONA, both from within his own party and the opposition.

Mbete said the fear of a possible repeat of previous disruptions of SONA addresses had prompted Parliament's decision. 

Standing on the steps outside the National Assembly, Mbete said: "We have been dismayed in the past four years at the disruption, anarchy and chaos that have been characteristic of this annual Joint Sitting which, in some way, marks the opening of Parliament.

"Reporting through Parliament on the State of the Nation is a critical accountability action by the Executive and it must happen. Developments this year, particularly the calls for disruption and/or postponement of the Joint Sitting, have, therefore, caused us great concern.

NCOP chairperson Thandi Modise looks on as National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announces the postponement of the State of the Nationa Address. Picture: Twitter

"We have, regrettably, come to the conclusion that there is little likelihood of an uneventful Joint Sitting of Parliament this coming Thursday."

Mbete said that with these concerns in mind, Parliament had decided to approach Zuma to propose the postponement "in order to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in Parliament". 

"When we met the President, we then learnt that he was already writing to Parliament to ask for the postponement of SONA.

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"We wish to assure fellow South Africans and everyone affected by this decision that these actions are being taken in the best interests of Parliament and the country."

Mbete said a new date for SONA would be announced soon.

She said the postponement has taken into account the scheduled tabling of the national budget in the next two weeks.