The national defence force is “going all out” for Saturday’s presidential inauguration at Loftus Versfeld according to an officer quoted by SAnews, the official government news agency.
Lieutenant Colonel Philip Makope, whose unit or service affiliation is not given, is reported as saying: “The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) contribution to proceedings is largely ceremonial”.
“If you look at all the elements involved, we have the (National) ceremonial guard, which will be part of the entire event. We will also be providing comprehensive, real time medical cover during the project, the motorcade and motorcycle movement by the military police. There will also be involvement of the air force, which will conduct a flypass (sic),” he said.
The news agency goes on to assert that “the SANDF’s four artillery regiments will also administer the 21 gun salute”. This is in reference to the 21 gun salute afforded a head of state at ceremonial occasions and it is noteworthy that the SA Army, the landward component of the SANDF, has only one full-time force artillery unit – 4 Artillery Regiment – in its Artillery Formation. Other units in the formation are Reserve Force. defenceWeb has reliably learnt a gun troop from 4 Artillery Regiment will use the sports fields at Meisies Hoerskool, east of Loftus, for the 21 gun salute.
The lieutenant colonel is further quoted as saying troops that will be part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration are “psychologically and physically 110% ready”.
Moving the inauguration from the Union Buildings to the rugby stadium has, according to Makopo, had minimal impact on the military.
“For us, it’s just a change of venue. The rationale is to get more people to the stadium. This will also give us more space. Planning and arrangements were not affected at all.”
He told SANews the number of SANDF personnel to be deployed for the inauguration could not be provided “for security reasons” adding the national defence force was ready for the ceremony.
He said individual services and divisions of the SANDF began preparing for the big day on 13 May. “On 16 May, that was when everything was amalgamated. We started doing our rehearsals at a central location, where we are getting ourselves ready. We are going all out in terms of our contribution for the project.”
A defenceWeb enquiry on units, aircraft and other aspects of the presidential inauguration to SANDF Corporate Communications earlier this week was, at the time of publication, unanswered.
Pretoria News reports the event joint planning committee for the inauguration as saying the “SANDF will stop at nothing to mesmerise more than 32 000 spectators at the swearing in of President Cyril Ramaphosa”.
The newspaper carries on to say the SANDF will bring “anything and everything that flies”.
defenceWeb’s understanding is SA Air Force fast movers – Gripens from 2 Squadron and Hawk Mk 120s from 85 Combat Flying School, both based at AFB Makhado – will be part of the flypast. Exact numbers have not been divulged and the same applies for helicopters with the 16 Squadron home-grown Rooivalk combat support helicopter expected to take part alongside Oryx medium transports and Agusta A-109 light utility machines, both probably from 17 Squadron at AFB Zwartkop. Air transport is expected to be represented by a 28 Squadron Hercules C-130BZ and a CASA 212 from 44 Squadron, both at AFB Waterkloof.
A number of aircraft have been seen over Pretoria apparently practicing for the inauguration, including C212 transports, King Airs, a PC-12, C-130s, Gripens and Rooivalk. PC-7 trainers are also expected to take part in the flypast, which will include aircraft from national carrier South African Airways (SAA).
Some 4 500 guests including parliamentarians, members of the judiciary, ministers and deputy ministers, Premiers, MECs and executive mayors, have been invited. Heads of state from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are also invited as well as the chairperson of the African Union, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Other guests include representatives from continental regional economic blocs, former liberation movements, fraternal countries, the African Union, and the United Nations.
The decision to change the venue to Loftus Versfeld Stadium was a cost-cutting measure – government will not be spending more than R120 million on the inauguration it said. In comparison, former president Jacob Zuma’s inauguration cost around R240 million.