Volunteers line Sona red carpetComment on this story
Parliament - Volunteers who keep citizens safe from fires, crime and disasters will make up the civil guard of honour greeting President Jacob Zuma at Parliament on Thursday evening.
Members of the Volunteer Wildfire Service (VWS), the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and the city of Cape Town's disaster risk management service would line the red carpet ahead of Zuma's state-of-the-nation address.
“It's quite an honour... It's an acknowledgement of what the volunteers do in the city, and volunteers per se,” said John Bayly Brown, head of the city's disaster risk management volunteers.
VWS chairman Lee Glanville, who had brought along 15 volunteers with bright yellow shirts, said it was great to be at Parliament.
“It's a thankless job we do and we don't do it for the thanks either. We do it to protect the people, protect the environment.”
Glanville is part of the Newlands station, which responds to fires in the greater city area, between Signal Hill and Cape Point.
Asked if his presence would be missed in case of an emergency, he said: “We have approximately 180 people in the VWS so 1/8with 3/8 the 15 guys and girls who are here today, it's not going to be a train smash.”
Brad Geyser, of the NSRI operations board, said it was the first time they had been invited to take part.
“We see it as a big honour and a privilege. We were quite chuffed to be invited,” he said, with his 20 members in blue shirts bustling about.
Asked what he was expecting from Zuma's speech, Geyser said he hoped to see more money going to volunteer organisations.
“South Africans are very generous (but) boats are expensive. The big 10 metre boats you see in Table Bay harbour are R12 million to replace, the 7.3m or 8.5m rib... those are R3m each and the much smaller ribs... are about R1.5m each. It's not cheap to put that type of thing on the ground.”
Brown said he hoped Zuma would mention education for people to build fire-resistant homes, to reduce fire-related deaths in informal settlements.
“(We) definitely want more money made available for housing because from a disaster management point of view, the country is prone to floods in informal settlements, shacks burning down. So we definitely need more money into that direction,” he said.
He hoped Zuma would set aside suitable land for people to build their homes on, so they would not have to move onto flood plains.
The civil guard would also include St John Ambulance, the SA Police Service and Cape Town reservists.