SA gets inauguration fever

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Union Buildings - South Africa's President-elect Jacob Zuma is expected to be sworn in today as the country's fourth democratically elected President.

The inauguration follows the resounding success of the fourth democratic elections, held on 22 April, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) won a landslide victory.

The prestigious inauguration ceremony is expected to attract over 30 000 people. A further 5000invited guests are expected to witness the biggest inauguration South Africa has seen.

There will be a glittering audience of presidents, premiers and royalty sitting in the amphitheatre, where the ceremony will be held.

Guests are expected to begin arriving from 7am to take their seats in the amphitheatre. Mr Zuma is expected to arrive as one of the last people, along with current caretaker President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Included in the long list of dignitaries is 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 and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasisri Wickramanayaka, King Mswati III of Swaziland and King Letsie III of Lesotho all arrived in the country on Friday ahead of the big day.

Other dignitaries include former Presidents FW de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki and other government representatives who will arrive by motorcade. The entire South African diplomatic corps is also among the roughly 5 000 invited guests.

At 11am, formal proceedings will begin, with Mr Motlanthe bestowing the National Order of Mapungubwe in platinum - which is one of the highest awards in the country - on Mr Zuma.

The President-elect will then take his oath of office. A 21-gun salute and a fly-past by four helicopters and Astra aircraft will signal the end of the ceremony.

Mr Zuma, on becoming South Africa's newest President, will deliver his inaugural address at noon.

Thereafter he is expected to walk down the stairs and onto the stage below at the south lawns to speak to the thousands of people expected to gather for his inauguration.

The crowds will then be treated to the music of different local artists and cultural dances, while invited guests will move to Bryntirion Estate for a lunch with Mr Zuma.

And to end the big day, the luminaries will be treated to a night concert. Monte Casino, in Johannesburg, will play host to a cultural programme, where artists such as Jonas Gwangwa, Oliver Mtukudzi, Lira and African Footprint will provide their entertainment.