Inauguration plans running at full steam

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Dr Cassius Lubisi

With just over a week to go before the inauguration ceremony of South Africa’s sixth democratically elected President, the highest office in the land says preparations are in full swing.

The inauguration follows the conclusion of the 2019 General Election, which saw the ruling African National Congress (ANC) emerge victorious.

In an interview with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) on Wednesday, the Director General of the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, said the Presidency reviews progress towards the big day on 25 May on a regular basis.

“We know exactly to the detail what must be done. There are 198 milestones. We check every week how many of them we have [accomplished]. We have done 132,” Lubisi said on Wednesday in an interview at the Union Buildings.

Lubisi, who took the reins as DG in 2010, came up with an idea to put together an inauguration manual, which did not exist before he took office.

He had attended the Presidential Inauguration back in 2009 as a guest and “learned a few things” which placed him in good stead as the organiser of the upcoming inauguration.

After learning that there was no manual on the running of the inauguration, Lubisi took matters into his own hands to ensure that the next inauguration would be an even greater success.

“When the time came for me to no longer be the guest but the organiser, I sought to meet most of the members of the organising team of 2009 and I individually interviewed them and I took copious notes, noting problems, etc.,” he said.

Engineers sat at the Presidency as it organised the 2014 inauguration, where everything was documented to help develop the manual.

“At the end of the 2014 inauguration, we had an inauguration manual.”

This year’s inauguration breaks from the tradition of hosting the inauguration at the seat of government at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The ceremony will instead be held at Loftus Versveld Stadium in the capital.

Lubisi said they have revised the plan to cater for this latest development. “I went back and asked Eskom for engineers to revise [the plan] for the stadium.”

Other traditional elements of the inauguration, including the mast flypast by the South African Airforce and South African Airways (SAA), as well as the 21-gun salute, will still feature.

Asked about why the ceremony has changed its historic venue, Lubisi said this had been an idea brought by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The current Head of State, who has attended many inauguration ceremonies on the African content, had taken note that in sister countries, the ceremonies are carried out at stadia, and not at capital buildings.

Ensuring inclusivity

The move will also ensure that more members of the public gain access to the celebrations, which coincidentally fall on Africa Day.

“We sought to follow this example, largely to ensure that more people are able to attend at the same venue. Here at the Union Buildings, what used to happen is that we would host 4 500 VIPs in the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, and then host 23 000 members of the public on the south lawns, which was a sort of separation.”

The change in venue will not only ensure inclusivity but will aid in cost cutting measures as a pavilion will not be erected at the Union Buildings.

Lubisi is confident that the ceremony, which will follow the nomination and subsequent election of the President-elect in the National Assembly scheduled for 22 May, will be a success.

Following the election, the President-elect will be sworn in at the ceremony that will attended by Heads of State from the continent as well as several other VIPs.

Gauteng province, together with its neighbouring provinces -- the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West -- will bus in over 30 000 members of the public to witness the celebrations.

In addition, the stadium will also accommodate 10 000 public walk-ins on the day.

“It will be an exciting, inclusive event, which allows more people to attend and enjoy democracy,” said Lubisi.

The inauguration will take place in a year that South Africa commemorates 25 Years of Democracy.

“President Ramaphosa has called upon the nation to celebrate together this 25 years of democracy and freedom, and to commit to a process of renewal and building our democracy further and growing the economy,” said Lubisi. -