Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

SONA 2021 disruptions: Six things that could go wrong on Thursday

Just because SONA 2021 will be different this year, that doesn’t mean it’s free from threats of disruption. Plenty of things could go wrong on Thursday.

sona 2021 disruptions six things that could go wrong on thursday 1024x685 - SONA 2021 disruptions: Six things that could go wrong on Thursday

SONA 2021 is going to have to go a long way to beat the chaos we saw in the chambers last year: Arguments over the EFF’s conduct, FW de Klerk’s attendance, and Boy Mamabolo’s salacious gossip made it an ill-tempered affair. Surely, with this year’s State of The Nation Address taking place in a scaled-down ceremony, nothing can go wrong?

Oh, to be so naive and trusting… The guest list is smaller, the event is shorter, and around 90% of MPs will be all dressed up with nowhere to go as they attend SONA 2021 via a video link. But that doesn’t reduce the risk of disruption. In fact, in some respects, it enhances the prospects.

SONA 2021: What could possibly go wrong?

The EFF could still disrupt proceedings

Parliament is allowed to have guests in on Thursday – indeed, Cyril Ramaphosa is one of them. He will be speaking live from Parliament, and 49 other people are also allowed to gather in the House. That means there will be a limited physical delegation of MPs and officials from most of SA’s political parties, including the EFF.

The Red Berets haven’t gone public with any plans to upset the applecart of SONA 2021, but there is always a possibility of Malema-inspired chaos when the President gives this annual address.

Mutings and bootings for SONA 2021

We’d wager R100 that Thandi Modise wishes she could have muted certain politicians BEFORE the pandemic started. With over 350 MPs set to attend SONA 2021 via Zoom, it’s an awfully high number of people who can interrupt and override the speech given by Ramaphosa.

Should we get a persistent digital disruption, Thandi Modise has the option to mute the microphones of certain offenders – and can also remove them from the video-link if their protests carry on for too long. We’ve already got the popcorn to hand.

Internet connections

Doesn’t require too much thought, this one. Hundreds of virtual guests and South Africa’s broadband reliability? There’s a nightmare on the horizon. Some MPs may not be able to login, whereas others may get that awful lagging thing that slows and slurs speech – to the point where the person talking sounds like they’ve spent a week inside a wine cellar.

Come on, we’ve had a year of this now. You should know what we’re on about…

Background chaos

To paraphrase Ronan Keating, some MPs say it best ‘when they say nothing at all’.

Last June, Naledi Chirwa appeared in Parliament via  Zoom, with a background commemorating Youth Day, and the uprising of 1976. However, the FF Plus complained about the non-regulation image. Speaker Tsenoli upheld the point of order, asking Chirwa to change her background to a different picture – prompting a furious argument.

Zoom background - SONA 2021 disruptions: Six things that could go wrong on Thursday
Naledi Chirwa’s offending image – Photo: YouTube screenshot

Should any MPs choose another provocative background image, you can expect to see a repeat of these scenes during the delivery of SONA 2021.

SONA 2021: Possible COVID-19 breaches

This event is a ‘hybrid sitting’ of Parliament. That means people will attend both digitally and physically. For those attending in person, the pressure is on to adhere to all COVID-19 protocols. One slip, or one impression of the maskless Mpumalanga Premier who attended Jackson Mthembu’s funeral, could make somebody an unwitting ‘meme for the evening’.

Timings and ‘porn-bombs’

Finally, we feel this is a necessary point to raise. Have you ever tried setting up a Zoom call for a proposed meeting time? It can’t be done. No meeting set for 10:00 sharp has ever started at 10:00 sharp. And that’s for calls featuring just a handful of people. Parliament will likely have to contend with various complaints before Ramaphosa can begin his speech at 19:00.

The issue can, at least, be resolved by ensuring everyone logs on early – but there’s still no guarantee that any problematic situations will be resolved by kick-off time. There’s also the outside possibility that porn-bombing could impact SONA 2021. You can find out more about this bizarre practice here.

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