Baleka Mbete: All systems go for state of the nation address

2014-06-12 13:11

Parliament looked forward to a “vibrant” state of the nation speech from President Jacob Zuma, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said today.

“The president has not been very well as you are aware. We are happy to receive him next Tuesday,” said Mbete during a press conference, her first since being elected Speaker on May 21.

In a brief speech that was short on detail, Mbete assured the media that Parliament was in a state of “readiness” for the occasion, despite threats of industrial action from parliamentary staff and the date being pushed forward by two days at the president’s request.

The official ceremony was originally set for June 19 at 7pm. It will now take place on Tuesday

Mbete said the day was particularly auspicious because it coincided with the country’s celebration of 20 years of democracy. However, few details were released, except to say the usual formalities such as the red carpet, the praise singer, the 21-gun salute, music and cultural activities would be in place.

Contingency plans were in place in case of rain.

A budget of R4 million had been allocated for the event, though Parliament expected there could be a saving as it was not hosting a gala dinner at the Cape Town International Convention Centre this year. Instead, there would be cocktails at Parliament.

The chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, said that the fifth Parliament hoped to ensure public participation was reinforced.

She said that it was “not a train smash” that Zuma had asked to bring the event forward by two days because they had been planning for the event for months.

When questioned about possible labour disruptions, she said there was a process under way that would prevent any impact on the speech.

Zuma is currently at home taking a break after the elections and recuperating after being in hospital last week. He has cancelled a number of events and his next public engagement will be the speech.

It will be Zuma’s first speech to the joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces since the establishment of the fifth Parliament.

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