Cape Town - Romance made an unexpected appearance at the opening of Parliament on Thursday as IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi stunned a few woman cabinet ministers with Valentine’s Day bouquets when he entered the National Assembly – and the House erupted in applause.
Buthelezi and Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, the first to receive her flowers and card, briefly hugged.
Other pleasantly surprised members of the executive were Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Buthelezi had earlier led an IFP delegation to the Adderley Street flower sellers to ease their distress at losing out on traditionally their biggest day of the year – with the area in lockdown for the grand event.
Also in the Valentine’s Day spirit were celebrity couple Dali and Rachel Tambo, who kissed for the cameras on the red carpet. Dressed from head-to-toe in neon pink, Rachel Tambo drew the limelight while Dali, in a black suit with brown shoes, graciously played the supporting act.
Durban business tycoon Vivian Reddy chatted about his 60th birthday celebrations with Dali Tambo as they made their way to the National Assembly public gallery.
Pink, purple, orange, fuschia and mauve – and any combination thereof – proved popular.
The men wore mostly dark business suits, brightened with the odd red tie or floral buttonhole, while a few ladies in red were spotted in the House, including International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Former presidents FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki were in the public gallery, facing the podium. Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe was seated behind De Klerk.
DA MP Tim Harris’s wife Cara looked chic in a burnt orange sheath dress with a lighter border.
Cope MP Graham McIntosh, meanwhile, carried on his personal tradition: he wore a kilt, but admitted he had to get special permission for his “cultural weapon” – a sgian dubh (pronounced skin doo), wedged into the top of his knee-length socks.
“This is the traditional and cultural dress for people coming from KwaZulu-Natal… this is my ’nene and beshu (the goat skin attire worn by Zulu warriors),” he told Independent Newspapers.
Inside, the chamber was abuzz with chatter as MPs greeted one another at this, the official start of the parliamentary year.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, in a black frock sparkling with sequins, chatted with the party’s federal executive chairman James Selfe.
Photographers and journalists were kept behind a red cordon in a small section of the Parliamentary precinct, with the exception of the Top Billing presenter, who was allowed a little more freedom of movement. From about 4pm there was a slow trickle of MPs and guests, one dressed in a traditional Japanese outfit.
The predicted rain stayed away, but a sniping Cape breeze prompted many a careful check that the hat or the hairdo were still perfectly in place. Few big hats were in evidence this year.
Security was tighter than ever, with roads closed all around Parliament and the pavements fenced off amid a strong police presence and helicopters buzzing overhead.
Those entering the precinct had to pass through metal detectors, where one officer was overheard being told to have “eyes in the back of your head”.
President Jacob Zuma, accompanied by MaKhumalo and the presiding officers, made his way up the red carpet past the public guests, civil guard of honour, entertainers and eminent persons, before pausing for the national anthem, 21-gun salute and salute flight by the SA Air Force, and then entering the National Assembly to deliver his speech.