Foreign dignitaries start arriving

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pretoria - Several Heads of State and Government have begun arriving at the Oliver Tambo International Airport ahead of President-elect Jacob Zuma's inauguration tomorrow.

Mr Zuma will be inaugurated at a ceremony at the Union Buildings. The formal proceedings of the event will start at 11am and will include a flypast as well as a 12 gun salute and an impressive entertainment line-up for the crowds.

Dignitaries who have already arrived in the country include Cote d' Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo, Tanzanian President Jikaya Kikwete, President of Equatorial Guinea Theodore Nguema and James Michel, President of the Seychelles.

The Deputy President of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Alburquerque, Liberian Deputy President Joseph Boakai, Gabon Deputy President Didjob di Ndinge and Deputy President of the Philippines Noli de Castro have also arrived through the state protocol lounge.

Other dignitaries who arrived this afternoon are Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasisri Wickramanayaka, King Mswati III of Swaziland and King Letsie III of Lesotho.

A total of 29 Heads of State and Government and seven Deputy Presidents from around the world are expected to witness the inauguration of South Africa's fourth democratically-elected President.

A further 56 countries will be represented by special envoys, the bulk of which will comprise foreign ministers and speakers of parliament.

Government has invited more than 5000 guests to the event, while 30 000 people are expected to gather at the south lawns of the Union Buildings.

Director General in the Department of Foreign Affairs Ayanda Ntsaluba on Thursday said: "We are extremely excited about the level of participation we are getting."

The inauguration is organised around the theme: "Together celebrating a vibrant democracy and building a better life for all."