THE who’s who of the business and political world attended the opening of Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday night, amid much pomp and ceremony on a day when the country and the world’s attention was fixed on the arrest of Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius for allegedly shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Former president Thabo Mbeki and his wife, Zanele, sat in a VIP gallery, along with former president FW de Klerk and his wife, Elita.
Billionaire and philanthropist Patrice Motsepe and his wife, Precious, were also in attendance.
Planning Minister Trevor Manuel arrived with his wife, Absa group CEO Maria Ramos, along with Inkatha Freedom Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi, with a large bouquet of flowers in tow that he proceeded to hand to female ministers when he entered the House.
President Jacob Zuma’s benefactors, the Guptas and close friend Vivian Reddy, were there, along with South African Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Independent Electoral Commission chief electoral officer Pansy Tlakula, Constitutional Court chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and his deputy, Dikgang Moseneke.
Mr Zuma acknowledged businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, his new deputy in the African National Congress deputy who is also deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission.
Guests arrived and posed for pictures on a red carpet, displaying their flair for fashion. But beneath the surface lay the murky memory of the year that passed since Mr Zuma last took to the podium to hand down his prognosis on the state of the country.
Last year was marred by labour unrest in both the mining and agriculture sectors, and 2012 saw the most service delivery protests since 2004 as community anger boiled over. This year began on an equally somber note with the rape and murder of Anene Booysen, which cast the spotlight on appalling levels of violence against women and children in South Africa.
And on Thursday, the nation awoke to the news of Mr Pistorius’s arrest for allegedly killing his 30-year-old model girlfriend.
Mr Zuma had last year in his state of the nation address praised Mr Pistorius for his achievements. On Thursday, however, the killing had overshadowed the president’s address on social, international and local media.