As the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, aides-de-camp are attached to the President of the Republic of South Africa at all ceremonies of state. Their role is limited to ceremonial duties. Once this task has been fulfilled they are immediately withdrawn.
During the State of the Nation Address (SONA), they travel with the President from his/her place of residence to Parliament. The aides-de-camp lead the presidential procession onto a saluting dais, on the steps of the National Assembly, to receive the ceremonial honours, the guard of honour by the National Ceremonial Guard, the 21-gun salute, the national anthem and a salute flight. They then lead the procession into the Chamber and stand guard at the entrance of the Chamber.
In 1842, the 21-gun salute became the international norm as the highest honour a nation rendered and it is fired in honour of the president. The first shot of the salute is synchronised to coincide with the playing of the national anthem. The salute takes one minute and 40 seconds.
DECORUM OF THE CHAMBER
Members of Parliament must be seated before the procession enters. Each of the nine provinces is represented by its full quota of six permanent and four rotating members, seated in the removable cross-benches. A delegation of 10 South African Local Government Association members also occupies seats in the cross-benches.
Members’ guests, representatives of statutory and constitutional bodies, the Judges President, provincial speakers, directors-general of state departments, guests from civil society approved by the presiding officers, and staff of the Presidency and Parliament are accommodated in the National Assembly galleries, the officials’ bays to the right and left of the Speaker’s chair and in Room E249 and the Old Assembly Chamber via live audio-visual relay of the proceedings in the National Assembly Chamber.
The procession of the Presiding Officers and the President enters the Chamber, preceded by the Serjeant-at-Arms and the Usher of the black rod and followed by the Secretary to Parliament.
A new element of the event since the birth of democracy is imbongi, the praise singer. Although our Parliament is based on the Westminster traditions, imbongi praise singing gives Africanness pride of place, narrating the President’s personal history, clan and family lineage in song, dance and narration. Imbongi starts this narration as the presidential procession enters the Chamber.
For the first time in history, a Khoisan praise singer led the President of South Africa into Parliament for a State of the Nation Address in June 2019.