Red carpet, regal welcome awaits Zuma
Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma will likely feel like a king coming home as he notices the many preparations for the opening of Parliament and his much-awaited State of the Nation address later on Thursday.
Long red carpets await him and the many guests on the tree-lined Parliament street, with not a leaf out of place. It is along this avenue he will walk to the National Assembly wing to deliver his speech.
Gardeners have been hard at work during the week, trimming hedges and scattering brightly coloured flowers in various beds and pots.
By noon on Thursday, many workers found reprieve in the shade. They included four flower arrangers, who had installed 70 arrangements in the Assembly.
"We've been here since early setting up, but have thankfully done most of the work. Our arrangements include the proudly South African Protea flower as well as roses and anthuriums," Sophia Felix said.
Colleague Maria Mehl said: "Zuma, if you are listening, the petrol price and cost of living must come down."
Kay Burns wanted the president to improve the state of government hospitals.
Outside the gates to Parliament street, workers balanced carefully on a ladder to clean the shutters of the neighbouring slave lodge.
Every entrance to Parliament's precinct was being monitored and metal barriers had been set up.
Curious tourists leaned over the barriers in the neighbouring Company Gardens to see what was going on.
One man stuck his video camera through a gate.
In Plein Street, uniformed school children spilled out of buses and filed up neatly to enter the building while chattering excitedly.
A total of 318 pupils had been invited to form part of the junior guard of honour. They came from secondary schools in Athlone, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Kuils River. The rest were from each of the nine provinces.
On the other side of Parliament, near the Good Hope building, food and drinks for the soirée were being unloaded from refrigerated trucks.
A lavish meal will be served in a marquee erected on a parking lot across the road. Worker Arnold Abrahams helped to unload boxes of Sauvignon Blanc and fruit juice.
"We've just unloaded 20 cases of this wine and 103 cases of fruit juice, and I can tell you now there is a lot more being unpacked elsewhere."
Abrahams said he was unemployed, but was grateful to have the delivery job for the day.
"I am so glad to be here. Did you know I waitered for [former president] Thabo Mbeki at the Waterfront and had my picture taken with [Western Cape premier] Helen Zille? Please Zuma, I hope you have a promise for us to make corruption come right and get rid of poverty," he said.
Zuma's address is expected to start at 19:00.