By Ntombi Mhlongo
The upcoming State Opening of the 5th Session of the 11th Parliament is set to be characterised by tight security.
This was revealed during the first preparations meeting which coincided with the rehearsals on Wednesday. Based on the engagements, expectations are high that the big day will be next Friday.
During the engagement, it was said that by next week Thursday, all preparations, in particular, the deco, will be completed, and no movement of persons will be allowed.
Addressing the stakeholders in attendance, Clerk to Parliament Benedict Xaba made it known that there would be no tolerance for guests who arrive late. He said those who will arrive late will not be allowed inside the Parliament chambers even if they are carrying the all-important invitation cards.
Also, it was stipulated that invitation cards would be categorised and that there would be those following the proceedings inside the Chambers while others will be outside. Both protocol and security officers will be there to ensure that everyone adheres to the rules.
The invitation cards and accreditation will be given to persons who have passed a vetting exercise. People who will come on the day without having done the accreditation exercise guaranteeing them tags will not be allowed in.
Meanwhile, the clerk highlighted that as has been the case in previous years, the gallery will be made available for diplomats and other guests. With the gallery being small, the clerk said a marquee will also be available outside to accommodate other guests but that efforts will be made to decrease the number of attendees.
In attendance on Wednesday were officials from the Ministry of Health who were put on the spot to state whether guests and all attendees will be expected to wear masks. The officers explained that the war against Covid-19 has not been won yet and that attendees will still need to take the necessary health precautions.
This response was seemingly not satisfactory as the stakeholders asked to know if attendees should wear facemasks or not. An explanation was given that those who will not be feeling okay on the day including having symptoms like coughing should wear facemasks.
Pieces of advice were also given that all attendees should have the facemasks in their possession. It was later agreed that since the presiding officers were set to meet His Majesty King Mswati III, they should seek advice which shall then be communicated before the big day.