South Africa: All Systems Go for SONA

Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise says it's all systems go as President Cyril Ramaphosa prepares to deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday night.

Modise said this after she took the President on an inspection of the Parliamentary precinct at the National Assembly during the lunch hour on Wednesday.

The President will deliver his speech during a joint sitting of Parliament at the National Assembly at 19:00.

"It is all systems go. We have [received] confirmation of almost all our guests. We are expecting that we will start on time. We are ready," she said.

Modise said after the final inspections were done, the President was satisfied with Parliament's readiness.

She also said that when the sitting begins, presiding officers will make sure that all the rules of the house are applied and that they will also ensure that proceedings start on time.

President relaxed ahead of SONA

Speaking to the media in front of the steps of the National Assembly alongside Modise and National Council of Provinces chair Amos Masondo, the President said after all the inspections and after being briefed by presiding officers, he was in a relaxed mood.

"Well I am quite relaxed. I have been taken through the process by the Speaker and the Chair of the [NCOP] National Council of Provinces. They were actually telling me what to say. They have already written the speech. So I was reciting the speech that they have written," he said.

He said this was going to be an important address given the state of affairs in the country's economy.

According to Statistics South Africa, the country's economy shrunk by 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019. This was largely due to the mining and quarrying and manufacturing industries being negative contributors to growth quarter-on-quarter.

"It is an important address, particularly taking into account where we are are as a country; where the economy did not perform in the last quarter. We have quite a lot of challenges that we face as a country which we have to address. I will be speaking to all South Africans," he said.

Presiding officers' walkabout

After the joint inspection with the President, Modise led presiding officers on a walkabout of the rest of the Parliamentary precinct and said they have been receiving regular briefings about the various aspects of the occasion and that everything was proceeding smoothly.

The presiding officers also announced that buses will transport Members of Parliament from and to their parliamentary villages and that there is a dedicated call centre for help with problems or information.

Presiding officers expressed their gratitude at the high media interest in tomorrow's SONA, and added that the final number of media who have been accredited to report from the parliamentary precinct stood at 915.

Parliament was also finalising the list of media who will have seats in the media bays of the National Assembly Chamber tomorrow.

Nine television, radio and digital broadcasters will be broadcasting live from Parliament tomorrow and so will Parliament TV.

Parliament precinct abuzz with activity

Ahead of the walkabout, the precinct was abuzz with activity as various service providers were putting up scaffolding where the media will be stationed, as well as putting a makeshift structure on the steps of the National Assembly aimed at providing a roof over the President's head in an event weather conditions were unfavourable.

Media houses were setting up in the proximity of their outside broadcast (OB) vans, as well as setting up their makeshift studios.

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