Parliament has postponed the annual state of the nation address amid expectation that President Jacob Zuma will resign or that his party, the ANC, will remove him from office.
Parliament’s presiding officers Baleka Mbete and Thandi Modise dramatically announced the postponement this afternoon on the steps of the National Assembly building and cited “the mood of the country” and concerns raised by stakeholders including political developments among their considerations.
“We have been dismayed in the past four years at the disruption, anarchy and chaos that have been characteristic of this annual joint sitting which, in some way, marks the opening of Parliament. Reporting through Parliament on the state of the nation is a critical accountability action by the executive and it must happen. Developments this year, particularly the calls for disruption and or postponement of the joint sitting, have, therefore, caused us great concern,” said Mbete reading from a prepared statement.
“We have, regrettably, come to the conclusion that there is little likelihood of an uneventful joint sitting of Parliament this coming Thursday,” she added.
When pushed by journalists as to whether developments within the ANC, which include meetings to discuss Zuma’s had influenced their decision, Mbete responded in the affirmative, saying the importance of developments within the body politic was a factor.
“It is always a factor. We are not just looking at logistical arrangements, we are listening to stakeholders, political stakeholders, members of society from different sectors, concerns being raised in the political environment and all of these had to come into effect in influencing our understanding of the seriousness of the situation…”
Modise added: “We needed also to consider the mood of the country and we needed to then have this consultation with the president of the republic so that we are satisfied in our minds that there is no prospect of a productive Sona.
“This we have done and we are satisfied that insisting on Sona on Thursday will not serve any purpose,” said Modise explaining why they changed their stance from last Thursday’s position where they were adamant that there will be no postponement.
The presiding officers also revealed that they approached Zuma to propose a postponement of the address in order to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in Parliament and when they met him, they learnt that he was already writing to Parliament to ask for the postponement of the annual address. Zuma’s letter had not arrived at the time the presiding officers made their announcement, which was just before 3pm today.
The postponement will take into account the scheduled tabling of the national budget on February 21, with Modise saying that their proposal was not to postpone Sona by more than a week.