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Parliament introduces new rules to maintain order during SONA, says the Speaker

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Lerato Mbhiza

Parliament has introduced a set of new rules designed to regulate proceedings during the joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and to stop  disruptions.

Addressing a media briefing on preparations to host SONA 2024, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the new joint rules are aimed at maintaining order, decorum in the Chamber, and promoting civility among members.

“These rules, set to be implemented for the first time during this State of the Nation Address, are an essential step in ensuring that the proceedings, including the SONA, and the opening of Parliament are conducted with the respect and seriousness they deserve.

“In terms of the new rules, no member is allowed to interrupt the President while delivering the State of the Nation Address. Similarly, interruptions are prohibited during the President’s speech at the opening of Parliament. Additionally these rules stipulate that no other business may be considered during a joint sitting other than the specific business for which the joint sitting is convened.

“These measures are critical in ensuring that these important national events are conducted in an orderly and respectful manner, reflecting the dignity of Parliament and the importance of these addresses in setting the nation’s legislative and development agenda,” she said on Tuesday in Cape Town.

Scheduled to take place on 8 February at 7pm at Cape Town City Hall, this will be the last SONA for the sixth administration.

Disruptions and violence have marked the annual State of the Nation Address since 2015, with the EFF storming the stage during the proceedings in 2023.

In December, Parliament suspended EFF leader Julius Malema, his deputy Floyd Shivambu, and four other MPs for a month for disrupting last year’s event.

Unless a last-minute appeal in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday is successful, the suspension would see them miss this year’s SONA.

The event will take place under the theme: “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.

Convened by the President as per the Constitution, SONA serves to update the nation on government commitments and to outline the government’s programme of action for the new financial year.

“The President’s speech is the sole agenda item. Following this, Members of Parliament will engage in a two-day joint debate on the address, with the President’s reply scheduled for the subsequent day.

“As of February 1, Cape Town City Hall has been designated as the parliamentary precinct, in accordance with Section 2 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act,” she said.

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