It’s that time of year when all eyes in the country will be turned towards Cape Town. President Jacob Zuma is set to do his 10th State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament this Thursday. For those of us living in the Mother City, SONA brings more than just the usual interest. It brings heavier traffic, potential protests and disruption to our routine. While it’s a hugely important event, it’s good to know how to navigate it when it directly affects you. Here’s what you can expect:
As always, there will be a number of road closures in the days leading up to and on the day of SONA 2017. Most of the road closures will be happening from 5 pm onwards and are mostly located in the CBD. Some of you may have already experienced the closures on Tuesday and they will occur again on Wednesday for rehearsal and Thursday for the actual event. In a statement, the City of Cape Town has predicted that the City Bowl, Newlands, and the M3 and N2 city-bound lanes will be the most affected by the closures, adding that the M5 will be the best alternative route to use. Some roads around Parliament that will be closed include Adderley, Spin, Wale, Harrington and Plein Streets. Affected highways include the M3 and N2. For a full breakdown of which roads will be closed and at what times, click here. We advise you to leave the CBD early or try to work from home if possible, especially if you work in the city.
Whenever there’s a political gathering, there’s bound to be a protest. News24 states that two protests have been planned for Thursday during the president’s address. The South African Unintegrated Forces United Front will be gathering on the Grand Parade with an estimate of 100 participants. They have permission to gather between 5 pm and 9 pm. The National Union of Metal Workers have applied for a permit to protest with 500 members but their application is yet to be confirmed. In addition to the planned protest on the Grand Parade, the ANC is hosting a ‘People’s Assembly’ from 5 pm. They approximate that as many as 10 000 ANC supporters may attend. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will attend the address but it;s unclear whether they plan to disrupt it as they have done in the past.
This year, the security surrounding SONA has been shrouded in controversy. In light of the chaotic gatherings in the past, where members of Parliament had to be forcibly removed, President Zuma has ordered that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) be deployed. EWN reports that 441 SANDF soldiers will be employed for the event along with thousands of SAPS officers. They will be patrolling the streets as well and the proceedings in the building. This huge boost to security has raised a lot of concerns with some members of the opposition parties and journalism groups who feel like the move implies tyranny and intimidation. Expect to see a lot more security on the streets.
The Red Carpet
Once you’ve successfully made it home, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the show. We say show since the SONA red carpet is just as entertaining as any awards show. Politicians dress to the nines and may stop for a short interview or two. If you’re in the mood for some light-hearted comedy after dealing with all the congestion on the roads, keep an eye on Twitter, which will definitely be bursting with hilarious commentary on what the guests are wearing and saying.
This years theme for SONA is celebrating 20 years of the constitution and 20 years since the establishment of the The National Council of Provinces (NCOP). According to The Citizen, President Zuma is expected to focus a great deal of his speech on the economy and land reform. He may touch on how the country’s economic growth has stalled over the past year and fears over a credit rating downgrade by global rating agencies. Some political analysts think that Zuma may paint a very positive picture of the country and of the ANC as a whole. City Press reports that SONA will capture the ANC’s 12 urgent tasks for this year, including items such as returning the land to the people using constitutional means, investing money in townships and rural areas, a massive rollout of broadband infrastructure and the implementation of free higher education for the poor.