All systems go for Saturday's inauguration

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pretoria - Its all systems go for the inauguration of South Africa's fourth democratically elected President on Saturday.

A total of 29 Heads of State will be among the 5 000 dignitaries who will witness President-elect Jacob Zuma taking the oath of office at the Union Buildings' amphitheatre.

A further 30 000 people are expected to gather at the south lawns of the Union Buildings.

"In terms of preparation I think we are confident that everything that needs to be done has been done. Our assessment is that everything is going on well," Director General in the Department of Foreign Affairs Ayanda Ntsaluba, said on Thursday.

The Union Buildings is currently a hive of activity in preparation for the weekend's event. A final rehearsal of the ceremony took place earlier this afternoon to ensure everything had been organised to the last detail.

Excitement around the country has been gaining momentum following Mr Zuma's election to the highest office in the land by the National Assembly on Wednesday.

The day, which is themed: "Together celebrating a vibrant democracy and building a better life for all", will begin with Heads of State and other dignitaries arriving at the Union Buildings between 9.30am and 10.30am.

Once all are seated in the amphitheatre, Chief Justice Pius Langa will conduct the inauguration ceremony. He will call upon Mr Zuma to take the oath of office, who will then promise to serve the country with pride and dignity.

Mr Zuma, who will by then be South Africa's new President, will then stand for the National Salute and fly over by the South African National Defence Force.

He will thereafter address the nation in his first speech as President.

Following the formal inauguration ceremony, Mr Zuma will move to the southern lawns of the Union Buildings to address about thirty thousand citizens, said Mr Ntsaluba.

He added that the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality has made arrangements for an alternative venue in the event of a spillage of people.

Should it rain as predicted by the South African Weather Services, umbrellas will be available for the invited guests that will range from heads of state to friends of the president-elect.

Acting Director General in the Presidency Trevor Fowler said that should it be cold, blankets have been secured for the invited guests "to make sure that its as comfortable as possible".

Extra security measures have also been set up around the Union Buildings precinct.

Local artists, the likes of the Soweto Gospel Choir, will perform late into the afternoon, keeping people entertained, while the President will then move to Bryntirion Estate where he will be served lunch along with his invited guests.

Celebrations will continue into the evening, where a cultural evening has been planned at Monte Casino in Johannesburg.