Pretoria - Guests cheered and clapped loudly as Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace walked into the Nelson Mandela amphitheatre.
A smiling Mugabe waved at guests as justice minister Jeff Radebe said: “Phambili Chimurenga, phambil.”
Former Zambian president Dr Kenneth Kaunda also received loud applause as he entered the venue for President Jacob Zuma's inauguration.
The two leaders have had problems with their health recently. Kaunda, 89, was hospitalised in February reportedly for fatigue. Kaunda ruled the country for 27 years.
This week video footage of Mugabe,90, in hospitalised arriving at a private hospital in Singapore with his wife, Grace.
Mugabe's health is a concern for Zimbabwean who fear instability if the elderly statesman dies in office without resolving succession issues within the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Mugabe has been president since 1980 when Zimbabwean got independence from Britain.
Former home affairs minister and chairperson of the African Union Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also received thunderous applause when she entered.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan who has been under fire following the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls by rebel group Boko Haram is also in attendance. As he walked in wearing his signature hat, Radebe said: “We want our girls back.”
At least 38 heads of states and 118 ambassadors, mostly based in Pretoria, are expected at the event which is scheduled to start shortly.
Local politicians in attendance include disgraced former communications minister Dina Pule and DA leader Helen Zille. But politicians are not the only ones in attendance. Soccer players like Simphiwe Tshabalala, actress Minnie Dlamini and businesswoman Basetsana Khumalo.
Zuma will be inaugurated at 11am by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and then move to the Sefako M Makgatho presidential guesthouse to have lunch with the VIPs.
While waiting for the event to start, guests were entertained by the SA Military Band. In the afternoon a cultural programme will be held on the southern lawns were members of the public are sitting. Some acts that are billed to perform include Claire John of Mango Groove, The Soil, Oskido and Friends and Chomee. - Pretoria News Weekend