SONA 2015: How will the Speaker keep the peace?

Ahead of SONA this week, President Jacob Zuma on Sunday had lunch with members of the Fourth Estate. He says he's not nervous, and it's Speaker, Mbete's job to keep the peace. How?

As would be expected at any meeting where the President meets the media, the question was raised of if he was nervous ahead of this year’s State of the Nation Address in light of numerous threats from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that they would disrupt the President’s address with questions about Nkandla.

Zuma laughingly shrugged off the question of his nerves ahead of SONA saying “I’ve never been nervous in my life”.

The President explained that if the EFF did disrupt his address he would be guided by the Speaker of Parliament, whose role is to protect the institution of Parliament.

Speaking to Xolani on 702, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Judith February agreed with Zuma saying :

The Speaker is at all times in charge of presiding over the House … it is her job and her job alone to ensure that the business of Parliament carries on as smoothly as possible. The President is entirely correct and he has to show up on the day and make his speech preferably uninterrupted.

Senior Researcher Institute for Security Studies, Judith February

The State of the Nation Address has never before been interrupted, and dealing with interruptions is unchartered territory in South Africa.

According to February, the only way in which the EFF would be able to interrupt Parliamentary proceedings on Thursday is to raise a point of order or question of privilege. Considering this criteria, February said that the EFF’s questions about Nkandla fall under neither of these and therefore it is difficult to understand how they will disrupt proceedings.

In the event that the EFF does go ahead and disrupt proceedings on Thursday, true to their word, February explains how Speaker, Baleka Mbete could deal with the matter:

She can point blank refuse it [the point of order], if there’s going to be a frackus like there was in August or November then of course we go into different territory where the Speaker can either ask members to leave the Assembly, subsequently suspend them or if there is grave disorder she can suspend the sitting in terms of rule 56.

Senior Researcher Institute for Security Studies, Judith February

February carried on to say that regardless of the titillating headlines about whether or not the EFF would disrupt SONA, at the heart of this matter is a President who has “been completely unaccountable about the issue of Nkandla”.

Listen to Xolani's conversation with ISS Senior Researcher, Judith February below:

Midday Report Presenter, Stephen Grootes recorded his experience of lunch with President Jacob Zuma in this week's "The #ConsideredView:"


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