•Members of the judiciary, speakers of provincial legislatures, provincial premiers and diplomats arrive at the Company Gardens entrance to the National Council of Provinces building;
•Guests and members of the executive (cabinet) start to arrive;
•Junior and Civil Guards of Honour and Eminent Persons take up positions on both sides of the red carpet along Parliament Street from the entrance to the parliamentary precinct;
•An imbongi takes up a position at the Slave Lodge to welcome the President. The imbongi later does the same at the entrance to the National Assembly Chamber when the President enters the Chamber;
•Former presidents, former deputy presidents and the former chief justice arrive at the entrance to the New Wing;
•The President takes the national salute on a podium outside the New Wing;
•The President delivers his State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly Chamber;
•Parliament’s Presiding Officers adjourn the joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces;
•The President, Deputy President and Parliament’s presiding officers leave the National Assembly Chamber;
•Guests and Members of Parliament leave the National Assembly Chamber.
Parliament is open to all South Africans. Members of the public take part in the ceremony through the following ways:
Junior Guard of Honour (about 250) This comprises school students from schools in all provinces. Schools are invited and selected on the basis that they have represented South Africa or their province at international, national, provincial or local level competitions in the areas of sport, the arts, cultural activities or participated in any other competition or award that has helped to boost the profile of the country, province or locality.
Civil Guard of Honour (about 100) For the 3 June 2009 State of the Nation Address, civil society organisations active in the gender/women, economic development, youth/ children development and disabled fields were invited to send representatives to form the Civil Guard of Honour.
Eminent Persons (nine) These are people who have achieved outstanding results in a particular field or been recognised for their contribution to society. They are nominated by Provincial Speakers from all nine provinces – one per province.
Significance of the Presidential procession to the National Assembly Chamber
The ceremony, which starts at the Slave Lodge, just outside the entrance to the Parliamentary precinct, is a combination of public participation and a formal state ceremony. It is normally an annual (there are two in an election year) ceremony of state at which the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature play out their constitutional roles in full view of the nation. The public participation part of the procession is important because Parliament strives to make the institution accessible to people and to encourage public participation in its workings. Former President Nelson Mandela introduced the public participation component. The first part of the procession from the Slave Lodge to the gates of Parliament involves a military guard of honour. From the entrance to the Parliamentary precinct, members of the South African public line the red carpet.
There is a Junior Guard of Honour from the entrance of Parliamentary precinct to the end of the National Council of Provinces building. A Civil Guard of Honour and nine Eminent Persons line the route after this until the end of the Old Assembly Wing. Entertainers also perform along the public participation section of the route. From the end of the Old Assembly Wing, the procession becomes part of a formal, state ceremony.
A Ceremonial Military Guard of Honour takes up a position in front of the New Wing in which the National Assembly Chamber is located and a military band – this year the Air Force Band – sets up to the right of the New Wing (the side nearest Tuynhuys) and plays the national anthem. A 21-gun salute and an Air Force fly-past takes place while the President takes the national salute from a special dais.
The red carpet Rolling out a red carpet was originally reserved for kings and queens and signified a welcome of great hospitality and ceremony. Over time, the red carpet was also used to welcome Heads of State.
The 21-gun salute The tradition of rendering a salute by firing cannon originated in the 14th century when cannon and firearms came into use. Originally, warships fired seven-gun salutes, seven probably chosen because of the number’s astronomical and Biblical significance. In 1842, the 21-gun salute became the international norm for the highest honour a nation rendered and it is fired in honour of the Head of State, the national flag, a visit from the Head of State of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family and a former Head of State.
– By Ronesh Dhawraj, SABC News Research Department