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Deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli says the budget has been cut to about R2m from just over R9m five years ago.

Parliament says it has managed to cut the budget for the state of the nation address (Sona) to about R2m from just over R9m five years ago.

Briefing the media on the state of readiness for next Thursday’s Sona, which will mark the official opening of SA’s sixth democratic parliament, deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said indications are that the national legislature will spend significantly less than the budgeted figure.

The government is under growing pressure to cut expenditure amid worsening economic conditions and increasing unemployment.

“For the February Sona ceremony, we budgeted just over R2m but closed with a total spending of R1.6m,” said Tsenoli.

“Parliament has been tightening Sona budgets in the last few years, which has, despite the price inflation, came down from R9.2m five years ago to R2m for this [June 20] Sona ceremony,” he said.

Tsenoli said parliament is mindful that the ceremony takes place against the backdrop of an economic slump in the first three months of 2019, which Stats SA highlighted as the biggest quarterly fall in economic activity in a decade.

“Appropriate cost-cutting measures are thus necessary. Once again, there will be no post-address dinner for MPs and guests. The drastic reduction in the event marketing and advertising budget has also boosted cost containment measures,” he said.

Parliament said certain aspects of public participation will not be part of the ceremony, as per the cost containment measures. This includes the junior guard and civil guard who form a guard of honour for the state procession. The “eminent persons”, who are usually selected from provinces on the basis of their outstanding achievements in their respective fields, will also not be part of the ceremony.

Furthermore, parliament announced that the imbongi, or praise singer, who usually ushers presidents into the chamber ahead of the address and is selected in concurrence with the presidency, has also been withdrawn, following discussion with President Cyril Ramaphosa. Business Day


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