The theme for this year’s address is: “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action Together Moving South Africa Forward”.
Tambo was the longest serving leader of the then banned and now governing party, the African National Congress (ANC). He died in April 1993, exactly a year before South Africa’s first democratic elections. South Africa’s major airport in Johannesburg was renamed after him in 2006 in recognition of his contribution to the liberation of the country.
The SONA, an annual address, is an important event in the calendar of South Africa, as it affords the President an opportunity to put in place the programme of government for the year.
It’s also an opportunity to provide an update on the implementation of government’s mandate and also outlines plans to respond to the various challenges that the country faces.
The Presidency has said that preparations for the national occasion are on track, announcing on Tuesday that the President has approved the deployment of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to maintain law and order around Parliament.
Parliament is ready
For its part, Parliament said it was ready to accommodate the scores of people who will be attending the event. A list of accredited media personnel published on the Parliamentary website shows that more than 1 000 members of the media will cover the event.
Guests who usually attend the SONA include members of the judiciary, led by the Chief Justice, former Presidents, sectors of society, including business, diplomats and the public. It’s always a colourful event as MPs, diplomats and a host of other dignitaries put their best foot forward in the most vibrant fashions. But the real business of the day will start at 7pm when the President begins to address the nation.
The period leading up to today’s SONA was preceded by various programmes involving members of the executive and these included a four-day Cabinet Lekgotla to review the past year and discuss the priorities for the current year.
The Cabinet Lekgotla followed the Lekgotla of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, which usually sets the tone and direction for the Government Programme of Action each year, based on the organisation’s annual January 8 anniversary statement.
On Tuesday, the President, supported by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment Promotion, hosted a Pre-SONA Investor Briefing in Cape Town.
The session was attended by CEOs, labour leaders and the leadership of business organisations.
SONA will be followed by the prestigious Annual Presidential Golf Challenge tournament and fundraising dinner on 10 February, the proceeds of which will go to the Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust.
The Golf Challenge is organised by the Department of Public Service and Administration each year, and the sitting Head of State and Government decides the charity of his choice for the proceeds of the fundraiser.
Economy and jobs, some of the pressing issues
The actual speech by the President is expected to highlight the extraordinary interventions by government over the past year to ensure that South Africa continues to attract investment amid slow economic growth and high unemployment.
Since 2010, the address has been broadcast in the evening to affrod more South Africans an opportunity to watch it live from their homes.
As in previous years, the President’s speech is expected to centre on boosting economic growth, fighting unemployment and poverty and effecting economic reform and transformation.
Given the continuing slow economic growth, the Presidency has acknowledged that rigorous efforts to reignite economic growth should continue. It said this can be achieved by working with other social partners, taking forward the achievements of the past year in promoting unity in action, protecting the economy and advancing growth in a difficult economic environment.