Parliament set for a sticky opening

HIGH humidity and temperatures in the upper twenties look set to make the 2011 opening of Parliament in Cape Town a somewhat sticky affair.

Shortly after 1pm today – scant hours ahead of the arrival of dignitaries, diplomats and politicians – grey clouds were gathering over the city.

While organisers are no doubt hoping the opening will not prove a wet one, weather forecasts suggest there is a 30 percent chance of showers for the Mother City.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary precinct was a hive of activity, with officials and workers putting the finishing touches to their preparations for the opening.

Numerous small vans and trucks were offloading gear and equipment, while workmen taped down electric cables, erected barriers and made preparations to roll out the long red carpet which MPs and others will walk up to the National Assembly building.

All those attending have to be in the chamber well before 7pm, when President Jacob Zuma delivers his third state-of-the-nation address since assuming office in May 2009.

The theme for this year’s opening — according to a briefing document released by Parliament earlier this week — is “celebrating the legacy of freedom through strengthening the link between Parliament and the people”.

The event is being held on the eve, exactly 21 years ago, of former president Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

It is the second time the opening has been held in the evening, in a break from long tradition that organisers say will “enable as many South Africans as possible to be part of this major event on our country’s political calendar”.

Millions of people are expected to watch Zuma address them on live television broadcasts.

Ceremonial proceedings planned for the afternoon include a 21-gun salute by a battery of the Cape Field Artillery, and a salute flight by four Pilatus Astra aircraft of the SA Air Force.

There have been numerous calls made on Zuma, by political parties and others, urging him to clearly spell out how he plans to take the country forward.

Many of these voices want more detail on how government will tackle priorities such as unemployment, education, health, poverty and crime. – Sapa

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