The British think we're barbaric, says Zuma

newspic4b8df9ce9e10f AFP President Jacob Zuma and one of his wives, Thobeka Madiba Zuma, arrives at Heathrow Airport. Photo: AFP

By Moshoeshoe Monare

Group Political Editor

President Jacob Zuma said he was not surprised by the UK press's scathing criticism of his polygamous practices because Britons have always believed that Africans were "barbaric" and "inferior".

In what could spark a diplomatic row, Zuma said those who did not understand his culture should engage with and not hurl insults at him.

"When the British came to our country, they said everything we are doing was barbaric, was wrong, inferior in whatever way. Bear in mind that I'm a freedom fighter and I fought to free myself, also for my culture to be respected.

"And I don't know why they are continuing thinking that their culture is more superior than others, those who might have said so.

"I am very clear on these issues, I've not looked down upon any culture of anyone ... and no one has been given an authority to judge others.

"The British have done that before, as they colonised us, and they continue to do this, and it's an unfortunate thing. If people want an engagement, I'm sure we will engage on that issue," he told The Star before he started his three-day state visit - his first one to a major power.

British papers competed for the sleaziest headlines on Zuma - who brought his third wife, Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, to the UK.

They ridiculed his big family and other sexual escapades - mostly prompted by revelations of his latest love child out of wedlock with Sonono Khoza.

The Guardian - which settled out of court following a defamatory article a year ago - even resuscitated his rape and corruption charges.

The presidential aides were more concerned by the vicious Daily Mail, which described him as "a buffoon" and "a sex-obsessed bigot" and claimed that Zuma has 35 children, including twins with a Ukrainian woman.

Some of the readers of the Daily Mail online - including South Africans - questioned why the UK was hosting "a despot".

Meanwhile, Zuma said he would raise the issue of Britain "snatching" South African nurses and other health workers.

"When you take very skilled people away, it does impact very negatively to us. I am sure the issue will be talked about."

He brought with him a contingent of more than 200 business people and 12 ministers, hoping to get foreign direct investment, as he is under pressure to provide jobs for his constituency.

Zuma reassured the British corporations that the country's economic policies would not be tweaked, and that they should not fear the nationalisation debate.

"We are saying to business that these are our policies - come to South Africa and create jobs. If you are unable to articulate that, there will be no jobs, there will be no investments.

"Our policies are based on the principles of a mixed economy, the private sector, the open economy and the participation of the state. That's what we need to clear. People are worried - as if we are about to legislate and make law, far from it," he said.

He also said he would prod the British to lift sanctions in Zimbabwe and give the power-sharing government a chance.

"We have said the sanctions must be lifted to help the process in Zimbabwe. That's part of what I will do when I am here on that issue.

"We are interacting with Zimbabweans on that issue. They have raised issues, for example, (Zanu-PF has said) 'you have a unity government where half of its ministers can travel all over the world, half of it cannot travel'.

"It hampers them, according to their own view. Why don't you say 'let us give the unity government fully blown freedom so that it can be able to move forward?'"

On South Africa celebrating the 100 days before the World Cup, Zuma said: "The fact that four months before the World Cup we completed almost everything is indicative that we are ready."

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