The Presiding Officers wish to reassure South Africans that Parliament’s work, which resumed during the first week of January 2018, is continuing in line with the Constitution. Through the official structures of Parliament, such as, committees and other multiparty forums, the institution is hard at work fulfilling its scheduled business relating to law-making, public participation and overseeing executive action.
The postponement of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2018 has had a limited impact on the ongoing work of parliamentary committees, the engine of Parliament, which make up more than 95% of the programme of the institution.
The 2018 parliamentary programme kicked off on 7 January 2018 with the meeting of the Subcommittee on Review of the Rules of the National Assembly, convened to deal with amendments of rules governing the impeachment of a sitting President. Since January this year, more than 40 committee meetings have been held and committees also conducted several oversight visits in provinces.
This week, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) held its two-day mid-term review to scrutinise activities. There was specific emphasis on oversight and enhancing synchronisation and effective implementation of common programmes between the NCOP, the provincial legislatures and the South African Local Government Association.
SONA has been informally referred to as “the opening of Parliament”, as it is often the first plenary House sitting of the year. However, this does not mean, that until SONA takes place, Parliament is closed or its work is suspended.
The decision to postpone the SONA was taken in conjunction with the President of the Republic. When determining an alternative date, we will take account of the broader implications on Parliament’s programme, chief amongst which is the National Budget, the key to unlocking government spending.
Everything is being done to ensure that the broader policy and programme pronouncements, followed by debates and budget approval, remain on course, as they are important to service delivery. As an institution overseeing executive action to ensure that commitments made by government to improve the living conditions of South Africans are realised, Parliament has committed to ensuring that the Budget Speech, scheduled for 21 February 2018, is not affected or delayed by the SONA postponement.
Parliament reassures South Africans that efforts are being undertaken also to minimise cost implications of the postponement. This is part of the institution’s broader cost-cutting measures. Negotiations with all service providers, such as airlines, are underway to curtail the financial impact resulting from, for instance, cancellation fees and travel agency administrative charges. All efforts are being made to ensure that the overall spending on the 2018 SONA remains within the budgeted R4.3m.
All guests have been informed of the postponement through a wide range of communications channels. The Presiding Officers regret any inconvenience that may have been caused by this postponement to all South Africans.
The Presiding Officers are in close liaison with the Presidency and other key stakeholders to ensure that the new date for the 2018 State of the Nation Address is determined without delay.
Issued by Parliament of the Republic of South Africa