Attending Zuma’s speech is like winning the lottery

2015-02-05 14:57

The public’s chance to rub shoulders with the who’s who of South African politics once a year is decided through a “lottery”.

It’s no easy feat for ordinary South Africans to become one of the 700 guests in the National Assembly, where President Jacob Zuma will make his state of the nation address next Thursday.

Seats for this year’s state of the nation address have already been assigned.

In addition to ordinary citizens, the guests to the state of the nation address were invited from various groups – including religious sectors, businesses, non-governmental organisations, the diplomatic corp – and guests of the president, Parliament and state institutions. Political parties were also awarded seats proportionally.

Luzuko Jacobs, Parliament spokesperson, said yesterday that members of the public usually become part of Parliament’s sittings by phoning the institution, emailing or visiting personally.

“Members of the public are welcome to attend the sittings because Parliament is an open institution. If we get too many requests for a specific sitting then all the names are put into a pot and we draw names, especially when the number of applications exceeds the number of seats available in the public gallery,” he explained.

Guests won’t be limited to the 721 available seats in the National Assembly. Alternative areas in Parliament will be equipped with big screens, on which guests can follow Zuma’s speech.

The guest list for this year’s event will be about 1700 names long.

Strict admission rules will apply and every guest’s accreditation card will display a head-and-shoulders photo.

Yesterday, Parliament secretary Gengezi Mgidlana, announced that there was “great interest” from the public over this year’s address.

Fewer guests would be invited, but Mgidlana stressed that this was due to the “format” of the event, not stricter security measures.

Various cost cutting measures were in place in order to ensure that the R4-million budget is not exceeded.

“Last year in February we spent R9 million and in June, R4.6 million. The budget has been cut to reflect the current economic climate.”

In addition to the new format, the savings were made possible by using Parliament’s caterers, limiting alcohol provisions and providing cheaper entertainment.

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