Despite committing to adhere to strict budgets this time around, the government is going all out for today’s inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in the heart of Pretoria.
From stunning airshow displays and marching parades by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and with VIPs from across the continent and the city’s large contingent of ambassadors and high commissioners representing their countries, it promises to be a day to remember.
On Friday night, the presidents of South Africa’s closest neighbours, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Madagascar had been met by some of South Africa’s Cabinet ministers and were whisked away to their hotels.
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Former presidents, including Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and FW de Klerk, opposition party leaders and newly elected members of Parliament are expected to be among the VIPs.
What makes Saturday’s inauguration different from those in the past is that more than 30 000 members of the public will be seated in the venue, whereas previously they had to sit on the lawns of the Union Buildings, where they watched proceedings on a big screen.
Ramaphosa, who was on Friday putting finishing touches to his speech, took time out to go to Loftus to confirm arrangements. He was seen smiling and chatting to, among others Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, while troops practised their drills and parachutists landed on the rugby field.
Judging from the practice flights, the public in and outside the stadium are in for a treat with helicopters, the SAAF’s Silver Falcons and an SAA plane expected to fly low over the crowd. There will also be a 21-gun salute.
Yesterday, there were frustrations with accreditation among the media, and the public was expected to arrive from 3am to try and get theirs for the East stand of the stadium.
Streets around the stadium and the VIP arrival point at Rietondale Fields will be closed to traffic, and police and security personnel will be out in force.
“It is a very exciting time. There are a lot of preparations,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said.
While the mood today will be jovial, the inauguration also signals time for everyone to get back to work after the elections. Gates to Loftus open at 6am with VIPs due from around 8am.
Ramaphosa was expected to arrive shortly before 10am. After proceedings, he will host a lunch for invited guests.