Sona to go ahead as planned‚ say presiding officers

Jacob Zuma
Image: THULI DLAMINI

The State of the Nation Address (Sona) will proceed as scheduled‚ despite requests by opposition parties for a postponement‚ Parliament’s presiding officers said on Thursday.

“We have absolutely no intention to approach any president to say you must not come to [deliver] the State of the Nation Address. Whoever is president will [deliver Sona]…that is all we know‚” National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson Thandi Modise said during a news conference in Parliament.

Sona is scheduled for February 8.

Speculation is rife that senior ANC leaders are engaged in tough negotiations to remove Zuma from office.

The EFF has asked for special sitting of the National Assembly before Sona to debate a motion of no confidence in Zuma. The party indicated that it would disrupt proceedings should Parliament not accede to its request.

Deputy speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli said the EFF request was unlikely to be entertained.

“To call a special sitting before Sona is unlikely to happen … I cannot hear a persuasive argument … Various factors‚ driven by our preparations for Sona‚ outweigh any reason for us to have a special sitting. It will be the most unprecedented thing [to hold a special sitting before Sona]‚” said Tsenoli.

He said it was up to the ANC to decide Zuma’s fate.

“The ANC will decide on the president … Parliament will not take that decision … We want to have the smoothest State of the Nation Address in spite of the threats [of disruption]‚” said Tsenoli.

Earlier this week‚ DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he had written to the speaker of the National Assembly‚ Baleka Mbete‚ requesting that Sona be postponed until Zuma has been removed from office‚ and Parliament is afforded an opportunity to elect a new president.

Maimane said the ANC now had two centres of power‚ each holding starkly differing policies‚ ideological positions and plans of action. This‚ he said‚ had left the country not knowing which direction is being pursued.

“We cannot afford to waste … public money for Jacob Zuma to deliver the government’s programme of action for the coming year in his State of the Nation address‚ when it is not likely that he will remain the president of the republic much longer‚” said Maimane.

EFF leader Julius Malema also wrote to Mbete requesting that she schedule a motion of no confidence in Zuma prior to the State of the Nation Address.

“This is largely informed by the fact that there are serious political developments and court judgments which necessitate an urgent parliamentary sitting to entertain a motion of no confidence against Mr. Jacob Zuma‚” Malema wrote.

“The suitability of Mr. Jacob Zuma to continue in the office of president is more of an urgent question now than a [State of the Nation Address] to be delivered by an incumbent who is on the verge of commissions and trials. Mr. Jacob Zuma should not be allowed to deliver the [State of the Nation Address] prior to a decision on whether Parliament still has confidence in him to continue as a President.”

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