Parliament introduces new SONA rules

 ·6 Feb 2024

National Assembly (NA) speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has announced new rules for the State of the Nation Address (SONA), prohibiting any disruptions during the joint sitting of the NA and the National Council of Provinces.

The new rules state that:

  • No member is allowed to interrupt the President while delivering the State of the Nation Address;
  • Interruptions are prohibited during the President’s speech at the opening of Parliament;
  • No other business may be considered during a joint sitting other than the specific business for which the joint sitting is convened.

“These measures are critical in ensuring that these important national events are conducted in an orderly and respectful manner, reflecting the dignity of Parliament and the importance of these addresses in setting the nation’s legislative and development agenda,” said Mapisa-Nqakula in a press conference on Tuesday.

Frequent SONA disruptions have been evident in South Africa since around 2015.

Most recently, six EFF members — EFF leader Julius Malema, deputy president Floyd Shivambu, secretary-general Marshall Dlamini, party spokesperson Sinawo Tambo, Vuyani Pambo and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi — received a one-month suspension from parliament and were barred from this year’s joint sitting by the National Assembly’s Power and Privileges Committee after they had stormed the stage at last year’s address.

The EFF have slammed the suspension decision and subsequent rule changes, with spokesperson Sinawo Tambo saying that it “underscores the suppressive nature of the executive’s attempts to stifle accountability and silence those who hold [President] Cyril Ramaphosa accountable.”

However, Mapisa-Nqakula said that “these rules, set to be implemented for the first time during this State of the Nation Address, are an essential step in ensuring that the proceedings, including the SONA, and the opening of Parliament are conducted with the respect and seriousness they deserve.”

The SONA, which updates the country on government commitments and to outline the government’s programme of action for the new financial year, is scheduled to take place on Thursday February 8 at the Cape Town City Hall, and will be the last for the sixth administration.

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