Parliament backtracks on its 'erroneous', 'premature' Zuma SONA attendance tweet

2020-02-12 10:56

In a bizarre sequence of events, Parliament has now backtracked on its confirmation that former president Jacob Zuma will attend President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address (SONA) for the first time, saying it was still verifying his attendance.

Parliament and the South African government's official Twitter accounts on Wednesday tweeted confirmation that Zuma will join former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe as guests at SONA on Thursday evening.

In a follow up statement however, Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the institution is now still verifying whether Zuma had confirmed or not.

"In confirming the list of former presidents who have confirmed attendance of the State of the Nation Address, an earlier tweet erroneously included Former President Jacob Zuma," Mothapo said on Thursday.

"The confirmation was premature; an accurate update will be given later today whether the former President is able to attend or not."

Earlier on Wednesday, in what seemed a surprise development, Parliament and the South African government's official Twitter pages said that Zuma would attend a Ramaphosa SONA for the first time in this his fourth speech.

"Former President Jacob Zuma will be attending #SONA2020 #GrowSA," both institutions had tweeted.

The former president's health status is also unclear at this point, given the furore around his absence from court for his corruption trial last week. Ill health was cited.

Zuma has until his next court appearance in May to explain to the court why he could not make his scheduled appearance last week, and to expand on the nature of his illness, pending a stayed arrest warrant.

According to Parliament, the budget for SONA 2020 is considerably less than previous years, at R2.1m.

Acting Parliament secretary Baby Tyawa said last week she expected the cost would be less than that figure.

Like previous years, there will also be an imbongi Masingita Shibambu, who will recite a poem as the presidential procession enters the National Assembly chamber.

Proceedings are set to begin at 19:00.

- Compiled by Paul Herman

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