Mail & Guardian 12 February 2019
Members of Parliament will from Tuesday have a chance to question President Cyril Ramaphosa on his State of the Nation address (Sona).
Two days have been set aside for legislators to either critique or applaud President Cyril Ramaphosa, with the first citizen expected to deliver his response on Thursday.
And while some political parties may secretly harbour plaudits for president and his speech, the announcement of May 8 as the general election date means that all political parties are now only interested in campaigning and electioneering.
While the Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed President Ramaphosa’s announcing the unbundling of Eskom — which the DA put forward a similar proposal in the public domain last year — the party’s leader Mmusi Maimane said the president’s speech was a “state of no action with more promises, and no immediate action”.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema said on Thursday night that Ramaphosa has nothing to new to offer South Africans.
“The president has abandoned the ANC manifesto and decided to plagiarise the EFF manifesto,” Malema said.
During the debate, opposition political parties will put forward MPs to interrogate the state of the nation address. While ANC MPs will undoubtedly be deployed to praise Ramaphosa and the ANC’s tenure in government.
Usually, parties put forward a mix of party whips and backbenchers. But with the last SONA debate before elections, only the best and brightest will be sent to the podium.
The Mail and Guardian understands ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu will open the debate, while Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor will close the proceedings on day one.
National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chief Whip Seiso Mohai will open the debate on day two, with Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel sweeping for the ANC.
After the State of the Nation debate, MPs will look forward to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech, scheduled for February 20. This will be the opportunity to put the money where Ramaphosa’s mouth is.
The president returns to the National Assembly in March, where he will take part in his final question and answer session of his current term.
At a meeting of Parliament’s programming committee two weeks ago, it was announced that the legislature would rise on March 21. MPs will then be officially relieved to go do election campaigning work for their political parties.
There’s no plan yet for the National Assembly or NCOP to debate and vote on any major legislation for the rest of the term. Instead, parliamentary committees will spend much of their time putting the final touches on handover reports for the next Parliament. The new term starts 10 days after the next election, scheduled for sometime in May.
With the rest of their time, MPs in the National Assembly and the NCOP will undoubtedly go out of their way to heckle each other and use the parliamentary podium as an election stump.