CHRONICLES OF SONA CHIC
It was Ramaphosa’s red tie time again, like he did last summer
For a fleeting moment, the 2024 State of the Nation Address red carpet looked like a day at the L’Ormarins King’s Plate. Floor-length dresses, bright colours, décolletés and hats. Many hats and headpieces.
In a press release, Parliament said it had partnered with “Proudly South Africa for this year’s State of the Nation Address in support of the South African fashion industry by urging Members of Parliament and guests to wear locally produced attire”. And, indeed, some MPs and dignitaries seemed to have received the memo.
But from the top of politicians’ and guests’ heads, hats and headpieces looked down at the state of our country’s affairs.
There was the tiara of Miss World South Africa, Dr Claude Mashego, and the white-and-blue flower crown of Mariane Schiestl (director of Eden of Africa Lodge), but also straw hats and turbans that seemed to walk, perched high and firmly fitted on dignitaries’ heads.
They advanced, feathered, beaded, embroidered, patterned, plastic-flowered, diamanté and for some, quite chic, a silent and elegant snub to the usually loud red berets.
To the customary shouts, points of order, and general chaos of last year’s Sona, this year’s hats responded with grace and measure, to some a bit unadventurous.
A night at the City Hall seemed to have turned into a day at the races, and then President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the stage, returning focus to the seriousness of the event.
The President was dressed in his customary pinstriped suit with a red tie, paired with a crisp white shirt — a striking imitation of his 2022 Sona outfit; by now, we can call it a vintage Ramaphosa outfit.
Watching the address live, Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee noted: “As much as I love a bit of drama, this Sona without ‘Speaker, point of order’ and ‘Honourable Ndlozi, take your seat’ is quite nice, nè?”, to which Rebecca Davis responded: “I guess it’s a reminder of what our collective politics were like pre-2015. More boring, but also more functional?”
Sartorially speaking, a search in the archives shows Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2013 State of the Nation Address sporting his habitual pinstripe suit plus white shirt, only that time topped with a bright yellow tie.
Back to the present, with the Sona now at the Cape Town City Hall, the EFF banned from attending and as the President’s speech goes on and on and on, hats start tipping slightly forward, a feather pointing lazily to the chair in front — has someone in the audience fallen asleep?
The thing is, Ramaphosa’s promises seem to roll back every year like his red tie and pinstripe suit (praise to vintage) — and without chaos and confusion, as my colleagues pointed out, all yawns threaten to break loose.
Maybe the President believes — with reason — that there is comfort in repetition and serenity in knowing that every year, at least on the red carpet, he will show up consistent, solid, reliably unsurprising.
Or maybe it’s a Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck situation: Jobs apparently chose the turtleneck because, “It was a garment that did away with an extraneous fold at the neck, that had the ease of a T-shirt and a sweatshirt but also the cool, minimal lines of a jacket”. The red tie, suit and white shirt combo might be Ramaphosa’s very own uniform of cool.
It’s his Sona signature.
On delivering the last Sona speech of the sixth administration, the President said in Zulu: “We will be back … To those who think that this is the last State of the Nation Address, we say, we will be back.”
One can bet he will be back, in a pinstripe suit, white shirt and a bright red tie. DM