NEWS

Sona Fever Grips Cape Town

Streets of Cape Town around Parliament gear up for President Zuma’s last State of the Nation Address.

08/02/2017 17:58 SAST | Updated 09/02/2017 08:08 SAST
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South Africa's Parliament building in Cape Town.

Streets around Parliament in Cape Town are a hive of activity as last-minute preparations are put in place ahead of the State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Banners and flags can be seen across many of the roads in the Central Bussiness District (CBD) reminding South Africans of the activities of Thursday.

Inside the premises of the National Assembly it is no different. Media houses are toiling around rigging their broadcast vans and positioning their cameras to carry out the extravaganzas associated with the Sona.

News 24 reported on Wednesday that the heightened security was thanks to intelligence received by government that a "massive uprising" involving "disgruntled groups" who wanted to "disrupt the event and destabilise the area".

While this was according to an anonymous source and no further verification could be done, according to The Times, the security for this year's event is the tightest since Mandela's presidency.

The 441 soldiers deployed to Parliament will come from 1 SA Infantry Battalion, The Times reported, which is based in Outdshoorn. Contrary to what officials have said, these troops are a mechanised battalion and are trained in the use of heavy armoured vehicles. In other words: they are not ceremonial.

Additionally, 20 Gauteng motorcycle traffic officers have been flown in to help the police and soldiers. The paper also reported that the US Embassy urged its citizens to avoid the area around Parliament.

As the hours of Wednesday slowly ticked away, workers were putting the final touches and red carpet in front of the national assembly where President Jacob Zuma will be standing when the army does a parade.

The workers are full of smiles as they carry out their duties. Two of them told HuffPostSA that they felt privileged to be contributing to the Sona.

"We always watch it on TV and to know that we have had a little hand in everything is exciting. It's a lot of work but I don't mind it, I'm just happy that hands have gone into making Sona a success," said one man sitting behind a bakkie.

With the blistering sun in the background, others seek refuge under trees while taking pictures. In the streets, passers-by peak through the fence of Parliament to see the work being done and the many broadcast vans parked inside the fence.

Melissa Schalkwyk said the festivities associated with Sona were intriguing to her and wished she could get a chance to attend the pomp and ceremony one day.

"The sound of the guns, as well as the parade by the soldiers, fascinate me. I also love the fashion side of it all. It's really a fun day," she said.

The festivities will however inconvenience a lot of people. There will be road closures around the CBD. The city of Cape Town said those would affect the normal flow of traffic in and around the city bowl, Newlands and the M3 and N2 city-bound lanes.

Government has expressed satisfaction over the preparations for the 2017 Sona. The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) said preparations that have been undertaken include ensuring the safety and security of dignitaries, the media and members of the public, both inside and outside Parliament. At least 441 soldiers will be deployed to Parliament to maintain peace and order.

The Presidency announced that the SANDF would be working together with the police to "maintain law and order" at the parliament during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation speech.