state-of-THe-nation billed for the night

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma will deliver this year's all-important state-of-the-nation address in the evening to ensure all South Africans have a chance of listening to his speech.

It will be the first time in the history of the National Assembly that the speech is delivered at night.

Zuma's spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said most workers and students usually missed the president's address.

"The president changed the time to 7pm to afford all South Africans, especially the workers, students and schoolchildren an opportunity to watch the proceedings in their homes (on TV).

"The majority of workers do not have access to television sets at work, while students and schoolchildren are naturally unable to watch due to study commitments during the day."

Magwenya said the February 11 address would also mark the 20th anniversary of the release of former president Nelson Mandela from Robben Island.

"The day will bring all South Africans together to mark a defining moment in the history of the country, including the unbanning of organisations, which happened on February 2."

ANC chief whip in Parliament, Mathole Motshekga, said the ruling party was pleased to celebrate 20 years since Madiba's release from prison.

The chief whip's office said in a statement: "This will be a fitting tribute to the father of our nation and many others who made immense sacrifices in the course of the fight for the liberation of our people.

"The Presidency must be applauded for deciding ... for the first time since 1994, that the president's address takes place in the evening."

But UDM leader Bantu Holomisa was sceptical about the move.

"People who want to watch Generations at night will not stop doing so just to hear the president speak. He (Zuma) seems to be more obsessed with people listening to him and no one criticising him afterwards."

Holomisa warned this would inconvenience the media and could pose a security risk for dignitaries.

"It means the media will have very little time to reflect on the speech, and opposition politicians will not have the opportunity to critique the speech. It is our job to critique the speech for the benefit of the nation," Holomisa said.