This year’s SONA (State of the Nation Address) will be stripped of its military ceremony, along with other elements which signify the official commencement of parliamentary business each year.
There will be no visible contribution from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as Parliament cuts back drastically on attendance and contributions to SONA this year (11 February at 19h00).
The National Ceremonial Guard (NCG), wearing its distinctive uniform and carrying chromed, polished and belted rifles and precision drill, will not be a backdrop to South Africa’s “great and good” who traditionally attend the Presidential start to the parliamentary year.
The customary flypast by PC-7 Mk II aircraft from Air Force Base Langebaanweg will also not grace the skies above Parliament and there will also be no 21 gun salute to indicate the presence of South Africa’s first citizen, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
A joint announcement by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and her counterpart in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Amos Masondo, pointed out limited numbers of people will be allowed in the Parliamentary precinct, in line with national state of disaster regulations.
“Ceremonial aspects that usually characterise SONA are suspended. There will be no red carpet and procession of the three arms of the state, physical participation of junior and civil guard of honour, eminent persons, Imbongi, the military parade leading the presidential procession to a saluting dais on the steps of the National Assembly, the NCG guard of honour and the 21-gun salute,” the statement reads.
Limits on the number of people in the chamber are also in line with lockdown regulations with a maximum of 49 parliamentarians, judiciary, the executive and the President in the House for his address. Other parliamentarians, NCOP members and all staff will “attend” virtually.