Gloves off for Sona debate

President Jacob Zuma in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa Picture: The Times / Esa Alexander / Gallo Images
President Jacob Zuma in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa
Picture: The Times / Esa Alexander / Gallo Images

Political parties are geared up to punch holes in President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation speech, which is to be debated in parliament this week.

The Sona debate takes place in a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces today and tomorrow with Zuma set to close the debate with his reply on Thursday.

If the events of last week are anything to go by, this week’s sitting of parliament is likely to continue on the raucous note now synonymous with the fifth democratic national legislature.

While the majority of parties represented in parliament walked out of the chamber last week following the violent ejection of EFF MPs, they are unlikely to boycott the debate as it gives them an opportunity to officially respond to Zuma’s speech and mine the publicity surrounding it.

Zuma’s address, which was characterised as bold and radical by the ANC, has been rejected by opposition parties and some analysts, who have described it as devoid of new ideas to tackle economic challenges.

Ralph Mathekga, the director of research at the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic Reflections, said the opposition parties, especially the EFF and DA, were faced with a dilemma.

“It’s a Sona that officially, they don’t know about. They were not there when it was read out. They are going to debate a Sona they were not part of,” Mathekga said.

Judith February, research associate at the Institute for Security Studies, said: “The absence of the EFF would make it relative plain sailing for Zuma.

“I think the EFF need to re-evaluate their strategy. They have reached the limits of the strategy of disruption. It provides Zuma a way out to say they don’t have regard for the constitution and his right to speak in parliament,” she said.

The EFF could be absent from the debate after its MPs were removed from the house last week after their defiance of the parliamentary presiding officers.

In terms of the rules of parliament, MPs removed from the chamber by the parliamentary protection services are immediately suspended for five days.

EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party was still deciding whether to take part or stay away from the debate.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he was looking forward to the debate.

“The speech itself; it was weak, uninspiring and racially divisive, devoid of any new ideas on how to free our young people from the shackles of joblessness and hopelessness.

“We will respond in full to the president’s speech in the Sona debate,” he said. -TimesLIVE

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