New Serjeant-at-Arms earns her stripes
Cape Town - Parliament's first female Serjeant-at-Arms, Regina Mhlomi, performed like a veteran at Thursday's State of the Nation address.
It was her job, carrying the 9.86kg mace on her shoulder, to lead President Jacob Zuma and the presiding officers of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces into the packed chamber.
The mace, just over 1m long, is made of 18 carat gold, springbok skin, diamonds and platinum.
Part of the serjeant's task is to announce loudly to the chamber who she is bringing in, but Mhlomi's task was eased by a head mike linked to the chamber's speaker system.
She stood holding the mace as Speaker Max Sisulu called for a moment of prayer or silent meditation, then was helped by a parliamentary official to place the mace in its stand next to the Speaker's chair.
Mhlomi, a former teacher with a post-graduate diploma in labour law and a master’s in conflict management, joined Parliament as a senior labour relations officer in January 1996.
She was appointed as an under-secretary in May 2007.
The Serjeant-at-Arms is responsible for security and keeping order in the National Assembly and has some ceremonial duties - including leading presiding officers and presidents into the chamber for sittings.