No praise singer nor guard of honour as millions cut from Sona budget

Cost-cutting measures are being implemented for President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address. Five years ago the budget for the event was R9.2m. This year it is R2m.
Cost-cutting measures are being implemented for President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address. Five years ago the budget for the event was R9.2m. This year it is R2m.
Image: The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa/Flickr

There will be no imbongi (traditional praise singer) at the state of the nation address (Sona) next week.

And the junior guard and civil guard of honour are also out of the window. There will, however, be eminent persons invited from provinces.

These are some of the changes that have been introduced by parliament ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address, due to take place on June 20.

The changes to how the national legislatures hosts the Sona, which also marks the official opening of parliament, were announced on Thursday by deputy speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli, along with other presiding officers of parliament, including his boss Thandi Modise.

Tsenoli said the changes to the ceremonial structure of the Sona had to be introduced owing to "the prevailing economic hardships that continue to face most South Africans".

He said nine lucky winners of a radio competition would no longer be travelling to the Sona as part of the cost-cutting measures.

Tsenoli said, as was the case with the Sona in February, there would be no state-sponsored dinner for MPs and other VIPs following Ramphosa's speech next week.

He said that following consultations with Ramaphosa, they've opted not to have a praise singer, which has been key ingredient of the address since the 1990.

"The imbongi, who usually ushers the president into the chamber ahead of the address and is selected in concurrence with the presidency, has also been withdrawn following discussion with the president.

"The ceremony will project the constitutional makeup of our state, the three arms of the state, with a procession consisting of the judiciary, the legislature and the executive," said Tsenoli.

Modise said they had set aside a budget of R2m and she was hoping that it would not be exhausted due to their scaling down.

Parliament has brought down the yearly Sona budget from R9.2m five years ago to R2m this year.

Modise, who on Wednesday read the riot act to warring EFF and ANC MPs at a training session, said she did not expect any disruptions to Ramaphosa's first Sona post a general election.

There were fears within the parliamentary corridors that the EFF, like they did with former president Jacob Zuma, could attempt to disrupt Ramaphosa's Sona following the leaking of a public protector report on the R500k donation he received from Bosasa.

Modise said there were no extraordinary security measures in place ahead of the address and she would be relying the rules of parliament to deal with whatever happens next week.

"I'm hoping that we're not going to use any of the white shirts," said Modise in reference to members of the parliamentary chamber support staff, or "the bouncers".


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