Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete and NCOP Chairperson Thandi Modise addressing the media. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE
Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete and NCOP Chairperson Thandi Modise addressing the media. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE

In an unprecedented move National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces speaker Thandi Modise announced on Tuesday that the state of the nation address (Sona) would be postponed.

This comes on the eve of a special national executive committee (NEC) meeting to be held on Wednesday to discuss President Jacob Zuma’s removal.

Opposition parties requested the postponement, saying Zuma should not be allowed to deliver the key address at the opening of Parliament, which was scheduled to take place on Thursday night.

The R4.3m event has now been postponed after Mbete met chief whips in Parliament.

Presiding officers told reporters in Parliament that Zuma had told them that he was in the process of requesting a postponement.

Zuma indicated to them that the current political environment in Parliament was not conducive to an orderly joint sitting on Thursday.

Mbete said the postponement was agreed to in order to allow for the environment to stabilise so the president could deliver the address without interruptions.

Should Zuma be recalled on Thursday and resign, newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to take the reigns and deliver the Sona at a later stage. Modise said the postponement would ideally not be for more than a week, however, a date has yet been decided.

The ANC’s top six leaders met Zuma on Sunday and communicated a national working committee (NWC) decision to him — that he should step down as state president.

But Zuma refused, intimating that doing so would be admitting that he had done something wrong. Zuma feels he is innocent and that forces seeking to oust him were part of a regime change agenda.

His refusal prompted a special sitting of the ANC’s NWC on Monday, where a decision was taken for the matter to be referred to the NEC to recall Zuma.

If the NEC decides to recall Zuma and he refuses to resign, Parliament will be kicked into touch.

The party’s caucus in Parliament is set to bring its own motion of no confidence in him, despite one brought by the EFF and set down for February 22.

The DA said on Tuesday it welcomed Mbete's decision "to accede to our request to postpone the State of the Nation Address" following a meeting with the chief whips of political parties represented in Parliament.

The party's leader Mmusi Maimane said it was imperative to work for circumstances that allow Sona to proceed.

"However this can only happen once Jacob Zuma is removed as President of South Africa," Maimane said. "To this end, the DA will be writing to Speaker Baleka Mbete to ensure that our impeachment motion, tabled last year, is urgently placed back on the order paper and the rules governing the impeachment process are finalised this week."

The 2018 State of the Nation Address has been postponed.