Behind the scenes: State of the Nation Address 2014

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On Thursday 13 February 2014 South African President Jacob Zuma presented his State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament in Cape Town, broadcast live to the people of the country.

Held every year, the State of the Nation Address also marks the opening of parliament, making it a ceremony of vibrant colour and high glamour as members of parliament, their spouses, invited dignitaries and ordinary South Africans dress up for the event.

As 2014 is an election year, there will be a second address after the national and provincial elections, set for 7 May. This second speech will also mark the second opening of parliament for 2014 – establishing South Africa’s fifth democratic national assembly, in its 20th year of freedom.

What is the State of the Nation Address?

In the State of the Nation Address, the president addresses the South African people in his capacity as both head of state and head of government. It is a formal state occasion and a key event on the country’s parliamentary and political calendar. The address is delivered to a joint sitting of both houses of parliament – the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. It is also one of the few occasions when all three arms of the state – the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – come together in one place.

During his speech, the president talks about government’s achievements of the past year and looks to the future by presenting a programme of action for the coming year, which sets out the government’s key plans for the next 12 months.

Behind the scenes: State of the Nation Address 2014

National Assembly Serjeant at Arms Regina Mhlomi talks us through the formal procedures parliament requires before South Africa’s State of the Nation Address can take place:

Lt Victor Jensen of the Cape Field Artillery explains the careful planning needed for the 21-gun salute at the opening of parliament. The full salute begins at the first note of the national anthem:

Major Pierre Pretorius of the South African Air Force discusses the preparations for the aircraft flypass over South Africa’s Parliament before the State of the Nation Address:

Compiled by Mary Alexander