After prematurely announcing that former president Jacob Zuma will join his predecessors Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and FW de Klerk at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday, Parliament has been left with egg on its face.
It had confirmed, via a tweet on Wednesday, that Zuma would be among 2 000 invited guests at Ramaphosa’s address.
Parliament then made an about turn sending a follow-up tweet correcting the premature announcement.
The retraction read: “In confirming a list of former presidents who have confirmed attendance of #Sona, an earlier tweet erroneously included former president Jacob Zuma. The confirmation was premature, an accurate update will be given later today. The error is regretted.”
Last week Zuma made headlines when he failed to appear before court in relation to the arms deal case due to illness.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court’s presiding Judge Dhaya Pillay issued a warrant of his arrest, which the judge stayed until May 6 when Zuma is expected back in court.
Zuma’s defence team had submitted a sick note which was dismissed by Pillay as it did not contain enough relevant information and the dates appeared to have been altered. The judge questioned the validity of the sick note.
Zuma’s health status is also unclear, given the furore around his absence from court last week.
He faces multiple charges of fraud and corruption related to the multi-billion rand arms deal signed while he was deputy president to Mbeki.
National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and Amos Masondo, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, on Tuesday said Parliament was ready for the Sona, including any planned disruptions.
“Parliament has appropriate mechanisms to maintain decorum and dignity during the state of the nation address or any programme of Parliament,” they said in a statement.
“Open threats to disrupt the work of Parliament, including the propagation of conspiracy theories, are not in the interests of the public. They serve only as attempts to distract Parliament from its work.”
The EFF had threatened to disrupt the opening of Parliament, but party secretary general Marshall Dlamini last week said they had not yet decided whether they would carry out the threat.
Read: EFF ‘still to discuss’ whether to disrupt state of the nation address
Modise previously announced that Parliament would not go out of its way to plan extraordinary security in light of the struggling economy.
Modise said Parliament remains sensitive to the prevailing economic challenges, and that the budget for the annual event was carefully designed to ensure that key features of the ceremony were retained.
“The Sona is the second of this current financial year, with the first being held in June last year following last year’s elections.
“Consistent with the trend of the previous years, indications are that the spending on both events will be far less than the budgeted amount,” Modise said.
“A total of R7.3 million has been budgeted for both events. The June Sona, which also served as the official opening of the sixth democratic Parliament, cost the institution R2.6 million,” she said.
Proceedings in Parliament are set to begin at 7pm on Thursday.