Cape Town - The 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison and the 2010 FIFA World Cup are set to put this year's opening of Parliament head and shoulders above previous years' events.
"We are especially honoured that Mr Mandela has accepted to attend this occasion. The sheer presence of the man provides any occasion with grace and honour," said Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu.
Sisulu and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mninwa Mahlangu, today briefed the media ahead of President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening.
Sisulu said Mandela had left an important legacy encouraging South Africans to live together as a people of this country.
"I'm very proud to be one of the citizens of the country today," he said.
"Celebrate the Legacy of Mandela - Contribute to Nation Building" has been adopted as Parliament's theme for this year. Parliament has pointed out that each month they will explore a different aspect of this theme.
Meanwhile, a giant soccer ball set to fly above Parliament will be unveiled tomorrow.
Sisulu said the details of road closures in the city were detailed on Parliament's website (www.parliament.gov.za) and would be made public through pamphlets distributed across the city, ahead of the opening of Parliament.
Deputy speaker of Parliament Nomaindia Mfeketo joked that she had no idea what her fellow parliamentarians and those guests expected to attend the opening of Parliament, were going to wear.
"What parliamentarians are going to wear on that day is always top secret. You don't even know what your friend is going to wear," said Mfeketo.
Sisulu said the reception committee that welcomed and received Mandela when he left prison would be present in the gallery. They are Ahmed Kathrada, Cheryl Carolus, Valli Moosa, Saki Macozoma, Cyril Ramaphosa and Trevor Manuel.
Mahlangu said former President Thabo Mbeki would not be present at the State of the Nation Address due to work commitments abroad.
Sisulu said though some of Parliament's objectives had been reached, "far more" still had to be done.
He said with the new Money Bills Amendment Act, Parliament would have increased oversight on how the budget is allocated.
Sisulu said cabinet ministers would be held more to account by Parliament in that they would be expected to soon report to parliamentary committees on the performance of their departments.
"It's not an optional extra; it's part of the work that ministers should be doing," said Sisulu, adding that Parliament was expected to today hold a workshop around this issue.