Pretoria - With a week to go to the Presidential inauguration at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, construction of the main stage and other facilities for the event has begun.
On Friday Loftus operations manager Hugo Kemp symbolically handed over the over the stadium keys to the Presidential inauguration Inter-Ministerial Committee.
From Friday, the area around Loftus will be in lock-down ahead of the first inauguration to be held at the stadium. Inaugurations since that of Nelson Mandela in 1994 were at the Union Buildings.
The stage where Cyril Ramaphosa will be sworn in as President of South Africa by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, is planned for the northern side of the 50000-seater stadium, according to those with inside knowledge.
High-profile guests, including heads of states from the Southern African Development Community and high-level representatives of BRICS countries, and diplomats, are to be accommodated in the covered main pavilion on the western side of the stadium.
Other guests invited to attend will be seated on the stands at the southern end of the stadium while the open stands on the eastern side of the stadium are available to close to 32 000 members of the public expected to take up the invitation to attend.
From Friday at 3pm to Saturday at 10pm, the entire area will be closed to the general public. Among streets affected are around Rietondale Park, which is a park-and-ride facility for invited guests, Hatfield and Loftus Park.
Roads affected include (but are not limited to) Soutpansberg, Government Avenue, Eastwood Street, Gordon, Francis Baard, University and Lynnwood roads and Walton Jameson.
This week, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said the invitation to VIP guests to attend the event had been limited in line with the government’s cost-cutting initiatives.
She said that around 4500 guests from various sectors had been invited. These include members of the diplomatic corps who will represent their countries, parliamentarians to be sworn in next week, premiers of the provinces, mayors, members of the judiciary, religious leaders, representatives of the UN and AU, members of NGOs and the media. Former presidents, including Jacob Zuma, are expected to attend.
What makes this inauguration unusual is the open invitation to the public to attend, and be seated within the stadium. In the past the public could watch an inauguration on big screens on the lawns of the Union Buildings, but this will give a more intimate experience.
Up to 200 buses will bring people to Pretoria from across the province and neighbouring regions, while others will be walk-ins. The public park-and-ride is at the Showgrounds, with accreditation at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool. It is expected to be sunny and warm.
South African National Defence Force spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton Ngubane said the occasion would be marked by traditional activities such as the mass flypast by the South African Airforce and SA Airways, as well as a 21-gun salute. The military will also be in charge of the motorcade to be used to transport the president to the event, and to form a guard of honour.
Dlamini Zuma said the move of the inauguration from the Union Buildings to the stadium was a cost-cutting measure, as well as to make it more accessible to ordinary South Africans. Whereas the 2014 inauguration of Zuma cost R240million, this one was expected to cost about R140m.