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Pretoria - The capital is pulling out all the stops to ensure the inauguration of Jacob Zuma as president on Saturday is the “party of the year”.
Metro authorities have assured the public and thousands of VIP guests attending the event at the Union Buildings that it has a fine record of success in managing events of such magnitude.
Municipal spokesman Blessing Manale said the inauguration of the fifth democratically elected president would reaffirm the status of the city as the seat of government. “We are confident we will create a sense of welcome and a congratulatory atmosphere to the international guests and MPs as the president takes the oath in the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre.”
The government has declined to reveal the cost of the inauguration but Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said it would be cheaper than the previous inauguration because of austerity measures being implemented by the cabinet. The 2009 inauguration of Zuma cost R75 million.
In an earlier parliamentary reply to a DA question, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the projected cost was higher than last time because more foreign dignitaries would be invited.
Officials have been planning the inauguration for months and government documents outline some of this. Around 4 500 VIP and VVIP guests are expected, including 100 heads of state, former heads of state and their spouses.
The guest list has been finalised and all invitations sent, GCIS said.
Chabane would not be drawn on names, but a select 500 guests will be allowed into the Presidential Marquee with the remaining 4 000 accommodated in the Presidential Dome in the amphitheatre.
To be seated for the ceremony which starts at 11am, guests are expected to arrive at park and ride facilities from 5am.
Public Works officials are hiring pavilions, electrical installations, toilets, sound and audio-visual equipment, stages, temporary security fencing, chairs and tables, tablecloths, linen, cutlery and flowers, and planning health and safety requirements. International Relations is juggling planning for food at five venues, ranging from state banquets to snacks.
VIPs can expect muffins, sandwiches with a variety of fillings, homemade biscuits, mini fruit skewers and soup. In the afternoon there’ll be drinks (a choice of two alcoholic and one non-alcoholic) and canapés.
VVIPs in the Presidential Marquee can look forward to a five-course meal. These will include heads of state, their deputies, heads of delegations and missions, South African dignitaries, guests of the president, heads of international organisations, and representatives of traditional and religious leaders.
All wines will be South African, and those served in the Presidential Marquee will have the inauguration logo on the bottles. This group will eat off bone china plates and drink from crystal glasses.
The 4 000 in the VIP marquee will get a “substantial” buffet meal but no welcome drinks or canapés. This group’s wine choices are limited to two reds and two whites, priced at R200 to R300 a bottle, and they’ll use porcelain plates.
The guest list includes South African ministers and deputy ministers, international ministers, premiers, mayors, business leaders, MECs, directors-general and civil society representatives.
Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) will be involved in logistics for the event and the City of Tshwane also plays a key role.
Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa will host courtesy visits of foreign dignitaries on Friday and use the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with representatives of the Brics delegations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – for possible city to city co-operation, he said.
Unlike in December after Nelson Mandela’s death, construction on the bus rapid transit system will be not be halted nor will there be major road closures, except on Saturday within the Union Buildings precinct. “The city’s metro police service has a record of success in managing the area during such occurrences,” he said.
Roads to be closed, include Government Boulevard, Steve Biko, WF Nkomo and Wessels streets, but expect congestion as thousands flock to the lawns of the Union Buildings, Manale said.
About 80 buses from the Tshwane Bus Service will transport people from the Tshwane Events Centre to the Union Buildings. Temporary signage for the pick-up and drop-off points will be erected for passengers.
The buses are expected to ferry at least 4 000 people who will form part of a crowd of 20 000 on the Union Buildings’ lawns. They will travel on Soutter, Kgosi Mampuru, Struben, Edmund and Hamilton streets with possible drop-off and pick-up points along the way.
Following the formal proceedings guests will be entertained by a cultural event on the Southern Lawns.
The rest of South Africa can follow proceedings via live television and radio broadcasts and in public viewing areas at 47 sites throughout the country.
Aviation authorities have issued a notice of closure of a 46.3km radius around the Union Buildings to any form of aircraft, paraglider or unmanned aircraft between 9am and 6pm on Saturday
* The National Assembly will convene its first sitting on Wednesday where Members of Parliament will be sworn in.
* This will be followed by the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the President.
* The National Council of Provinces will have its first sitting on Thursday, by which time the premiers for each province will have been elected.
* The presidential inauguration takes place on Saturday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.