The South African presidency on Tuesday confirmed that President Jacob Zuma had written to the presiding officers of Parliament requesting the postponement of the State of the Nation address this week.
In a statement, the Presidency said: “President Jacob Zuma has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete and the Chairperson of the Council of Provinces, Ms Thandi Modise requesting the postponement of the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, which he had asked them to convene in order to deliver the State of the Nation Address (SONA).”
SONA had been due to take place on Thursday evening.
“The President has requested the postponement due to certain developments which make it not conducive to successfully hold the sitting and deliver the SONA,” the statement said, adding that the Presiding Officers had acceded to the president’s request.
A short while earlier, Mbete had made the announcement of the postponement which comes as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday confirmed that its National Executive Committee (NEC) will on Wednesday make a decision on the fate of the embattled Zuma who was due to deliver SONA.
There have been rising calls for Zuma to step down and to not deliver SONA, both from within his own party and the opposition, who have in recent years disrupted the state of the nation in protest at Zuma’s presence amid myriad scandals of corruption and state capture.
Standing on the steps outside the National Assembly, Mbete said: “We have been dismayed in the past four years at the disruption, anarchy and chaos that have been characteristic of this annual Joint Sitting which, in some way, marks the opening of Parliament.
“Reporting through Parliament on the State of the Nation is a critical accountability action by the Executive and it must happen. Developments this year, particularly the calls for disruption and/or postponement of the Joint Sitting, have, therefore, caused us great concern.
“We have, regrettably, come to the conclusion that there is little likelihood of an uneventful Joint Sitting of Parliament this coming Thursday.”
Mbete said that with these concerns in mind, Parliament had decided to approach Zuma to propose the postponement “in order to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in Parliament”.
“When we met the President, we then learnt that he was already writing to Parliament to ask for the postponement of SONA.”
Mbete said a new date for SONA would be announced soon.
Earlier Tuesday, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who was introducing the new ANC spokesman Pule Mabe, told reporters in Johannesburg that a binding collective decision will be made by the NEC on the fate of Zuma at a meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Zuma has thus far resisted calls by his own party to step down as head of state, opening the way for a no-confidence vote or possible impeachment, while a decision on reinstating hundreds of decade-old corruption and racketeering charges is pending.
– African News Agency (ANA)