ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga. File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Parliament, Cape Town - Politics clashed with romance in Parliament on Thursday, with MPs having mixed feelings about having to spend their Valentine's Day at the official opening of Parliament.

Female MPs arrived at the Parliamentary precinct kitted out in brightly coloured dresses, but red was clearly not a favourite.

Some male MPs, on the other hand, observed Valentine's Day by wearing hints of red with their dark suits.

Italian-born Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini wore a black suit with a red tie.

Asked who designed the suit, Oriani-Ambrosini said: “I did, with the help of my tailor. He's Italian.”

He admitted he was a hopeless romantic, and would miss out on spoiling his Valentine.

“I understand the difficulty that the president has. He's got a hard day at work and forces us all not to take anyone else out.”

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa did not share these sentiments.

“Valentine's Day is for the youth and I'm a madala (old man) now, I don't care,” he said.

Smuts Ngonyama, a Congress of the People MP, said for him the opening would be a formal affair, but that he had brought along a red tie to complement his black suit.

“We are all very romantic, but unfortunately we don't have flowers for everyone,” said Ngonyama.

However, he said he would deliver a single rose to his wife on Friday.

Deputy Human Settlements Minister Zoe Kota-Fredericks giggled when asked if she was a romantic at heart, and said answering the question would be “very embarrassing”.

She arrived with her 21-year-old son Aphiwe Kota-Fredericks, who was attending his first state-of-the-nation address.

He wore a maroon suit to complement his mother's bright pink dress.

Asked who his Valentine was, Aphiwe shyly answered: “It's my mother for today.”

He would accompany his mother to the state-of-the-nation dinner after President Jacob Zuma's speech.

Democratic Alliance MP Sandy Kalyan, who would wear a silk sari from India, said she would be “ditching the state-of-the-nation dinner”.

“My partner and I are going for dinner at the Taj.”

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said he did not think the event would detract from Valentine's Day.

“I think this occasion, which is a very important national occasion, is serving two purposes: that of nation building and family building, so it's a very good coincidence.”

He said he did not have anything special planned.

“I'm an old man and my grandchildren say I'm very boring. What I want to do is tell more stories to my grandchildren, so that they don't run away from me.”

In one of the most romantic gestures of the day, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi led his MPs to purchase flowers from vendors in nearby Adderly Street.

The vendors made headlines in Cape newspapers this week, complaining the strict security measures accompanying the state-of-the-nation address would cost them dearly.

“For decades, flower sellers have looked forward to Valentine's Day as the most important revenue-generating occasion, said Buthelezi.

“Today, people can only reach them if they are prepared to walk, as the entire area has been cut off from ordinary traffic.” - Sapa