Rugby ‘forces’ inauguration out of Loftus Versfeld

This week’s presidential inauguration was forced to move to the Union Buildings due to the Blue Bulls advancing to the later stages of the United Rugby Championship. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

This week’s presidential inauguration was forced to move to the Union Buildings due to the Blue Bulls advancing to the later stages of the United Rugby Championship. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 23, 2024


THE government and its contractors had to scramble and work around the clock after it was forced to move President Cyril Ramaphosa’s multimillion-rand inauguration from Loftus Versfeld Stadium to the Union Buildings in Tshwane.

Several companies that bid for lucrative contacts to roll out the red carpet for Ramaphosa, dozens of current and former heads of states and governments, local and international dignitaries and guests were informed that democratic South Africa’s seventh post-election presidential inauguration would be held at the home of the Blue Bulls Rugby in the country’s capital.

However, the Blue Bulls’ march to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final yesterday (Saturday), when they hosted Scottish side Glasgow Warriors at Loftus Versfeld, forced the last-minute change of plan, the Sunday Independent learnt this week.

Last Saturday, at the same venue, the Bulls beat Ireland’s Leinster in the semi-final and booked their place in yesterday’s final.

The quarter-final against Italian team Benetton was also played at Loftus Versfeld, on June 8.

Preparations were already under way to host the inauguration at the 52 000-capacity venue, which the government upgraded to the tune of R131 million ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Johann Rupert’s Remgro company and Confederation of African Football president and Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe are the majority owners of the Blue Bulls Company, which manages Loftus Versfeld, where Ramaphosa’s last inauguration was held in May 2019.

A week before the presidential inauguration, the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure awarded three contracts worth nearly R8 million to procure marquees for VVIP lounges and related services at ports of entries OR Tambo International Airport in Ekurhuleni and the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Tshwane as well as Loftus Versfeld.

An entity known as Sheer Entertainment scored the contract worth almost R1.7m as well as another valued at nearly R3.9m to provide stage, sound, big screen and related infrastructure at Loftus Versfeld.

The government had initially made plans for 100 heads of state and government and 50 kings and queens.

At least 18 heads of state and government, three former heads of state and government and nine heads of delegation were expected to attend Wednesday’s inauguration.

Documents show that the heads of state VVIP executive glass marquee had to be withstand winds of up to 80km/h and be waterproof in case of rainy weather and be fitted with two L-shaped mini-bars and unlimited power supply through a silent diesel generator.

At Loftus Versfeld, the government expected about 40 000 people to attend the inauguration.

The facilities slated for Loftus Versfeld were eventually moved to the Union Buildings’ south lawns and Sheer Entertainment was the responsible company.

Another company, Be-Sure Events Solutions, was awarded a tender of just under R2.2m to supply marquees to the Sefako Makgatho presidential guest house at the Bryntirion Estate, which hosted the post-inauguration luncheon for VVIPs.

In addition, the department, which was mandated, among others, to provide events-related movable infrastructure for the inauguration, had planned to host an overflow area at the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool, which is just across Lynnwood Road from Loftus Versfeld.

The overflow area would have required a main audiovisual daylight plasma screen with amplifier and loudspeaker, wi-fi connection for satellite up-link, power supply through silent generator, stackable plastic chairs, ablution facilities and a two-metre-high crowd control barrier mesh fence with concrete block fence clamps.

Earlier this year, the Sunday Independent revealed that the Government Communication and Information System’s R73.2m content processing and dissemination programme budget for advertising, communicating and educating the public through radio stations, social media, television, newspapers, leaflets and flyers was focused on the inauguration, economic reconstruction and recovery plan, anti-corruption initiatives and awareness of gender-based violence, among others.

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