SONA: Showcasing South Africa’s inclusive cultural diversity

Preparations are nearly complete for the most inclusive event in South Africa’s political and parliamentary calendar: the State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.

Music group performing outside Houses of Parliament
A cultural group performs outside the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town before the 2016 State of the Nation Address. The participation of ordinary South Africans is central to the event. (Image: GCIS)

President Jacob Zuma is set to present the State of the Nation Address, known as SONA, on the evening of Thursday 9 February. It is an event rich in symbolism and ceremonial activities, showcasing South Africa’s cultural diversity.

SONA brings together the three arms of the state – the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – to play out their constitutional roles in full view of the nation. The event will be broadcast live from the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town on public TV, on live internet stream, and to public viewing spots across the country.

SONA will be preceded by the colourful spectacle of the opening of Parliament. This will include high South African fashion as dignitaries walk the red carpet, a horse-mounted police escort and military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the President’s route by members of the defence force, a national salute, a military band, an air-force flypast, and the traditional 21-gun salute. The participation of eminent South Africans and ordinary citizens – especially children – will be central to the day’s events.

Proceedings at Parliament will start at around 16h30 when members of the judiciary, speakers of provincial legislatures, provincial premiers and diplomats arrive at the Company Gardens entrance to the Old Assembly building in Cape Town’s historic city bowl.

Junior and civil guards of honour and “eminent persons” will take up their positions on both sides of the red carpet along Parliament Street from the entrance to the parliamentary precinct.

The Junior Guard of Honour will be made up of schoolchildren who have represented South Africa or their province in international, national, provincial or local competitions, in sport, the arts, culture or other activities that have helped to portray a positive image of the country.

Eminent South Africans, individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the country, are specially invited to take part in the event.

After that, former presidents, former deputy presidents, the former national assembly speaker and former chief justices will arrive.

This will be followed by a procession of premiers, speakers of provincial legislatures, judiciary, Parliament’s presiding officers, the deputy president, and finally the president himself.

The president will take the national salute – which includes the 21-gun salute – on the podium outside the National Assembly building at 18h55. At the same time, the South African Air Force will put on a spectacular flypast over the parliamentary precinct.

The 21-gun salute has, internationally, become the highest honour a nation can render. It is fired in honour of the head of state, the national flag, the head of state of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family, and a former head of state.

The president will then, accompanied by the performance of an imbongi or praise poet, be ushered in the National Assembly. President Zuma is set to deliver his address in the National Assembly chamber at 19h00.

South Africans can watch the entire proceedings live on TV. The event will also be broadcast live at public viewing areas across the country.

Catch the broadcast at the following locations:

Eastern Cape

  • Freemantle Boys High School, Lady Frere
  • Mvenyane Senior Secondary School, Matatiele
  • Walter Sisulu University, Potsdam Campus, East London

Free State

  • Botshabelo Thusong Service Centre
  • Community Hall, Rouxville
  • Phuthaditjhaba multipurpose hall

Limpopo

  • Letaba Estate Farms, Tzaneen
  • Matatshe Correctional Centre
  • Polokwane Prison

KwaZulu-Natal

  • Dlangezwa High School, Mhlatuze Local Municipality
  • Indaka Community Hall, Alfred Duma Municipality
  • Impendle Thusong Service Centre

North West

  • BOSASA Place of Safety, Motlasana, Klerksdorp
  • Reivilo High School, Greater Taung
  • Ramochana Prison, Rustenburg

Northern Cape

  • Correctional Centre, Upington
  • Seodin/Kuruman Correctional Services
  • 3 Sai Military Base, Sol Plaatjie Municipality

Western Cape

  • Breede River High School, Breede Valley Municipality
  • Protea Community Hall, Overstrand Municipality
  • Engelbrecht Primary, Elands Bay

Gauteng

  • Tshwaraganang Orphanage Centre, Hammanskraal
  • Odi Prison

Mpumalanga

  • Izimbali Combined MST School