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Zuma’s visit turns into campaign

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President Jacob Zuma dances with pupils at the opening of Mlozana Junior Secondary School at Umzimkhulu. Picture: Zandile Shange

KwaZulu-Natal - The southern KwaZulu-Natal town of uMzimkhulu came to a standstill on Tuesday when President Jacob Zuma paid a fleeting visit to the former Eastern Cape region, ostensibly to monitor development and service delivery.

Zuma said the trip gad been prompted by a Facebook message from a local man complaining about the lack of development in the area.

Organised under the banner of the Presidency’s Siyahlola presidential monitoring programme to assess and monitor service delivery in uMzimkhulu, it appeared to be a well co-ordinated re-election campaign, giving Zuma an opportunity to come into contact with a politically active region whose support he needs a few months before the ANC elective conference in Mangaung where he is likely to be challenged for the post of party president.

The visit saw Zuma addressing locals during a walkabout in the town and visits to government projects.

There were spontaneous chants of support for Zuma with workers from retail outlets abandoning their work stations to steal a glance at a beaming president.

He told his audience that the visit had been prompted by a Facebook message from Sibongokuhle Miya before the 2011 State of the Nation address. “I received a message from this young hero, saying the town was in a state of disrepair with roads littered with potholes and water and sewerage spilling all over the town.

“But I can see now a lot has been done, although there is a lot more that still needs to be done,” said Zuma, who was accompanied by a phalanx of national cabinet ministers and provincial MECs.

Zuma said he had brought the ministers so that they could hear for themselves what the residents of the town wanted fixed.

“I have brought ministers dealing with water, electricity and roads. They need to work out what the most pressing needs are and allocate their spending accordingly,” he said.

Last week, Zuma also visited rural Eastern Cape, another province whose backing he desperately needs to win re-election. He is scheduled to make more presidential visits to other provinces in the next few months, trips which although organised to check government service delivery, will give him an opportunity to be seen as a champion of the people.

He got a positive reception on Tuesday, with people saying since the town had been taken over by KwaZulu-Natal, there had been improvements, but there was still more to be done.

Miya, who joined Zuma on the podium during the interaction with the public, said he was happy with the intervention. “But more still needs to be done. In my view that was long overdue. In my area, Mfulamhle, there is still no running water,” said Miya.

Addressing the same event, Premier Zweli Mkhize said the province had spent well over R8 billion in uMzimkhulu since taking it over from Eastern Cape in 2006.

Mkhize said R2.8bn of this had gone into education when it was found that of all mud schools in KZN, 98 percent were in Umzimkhulu.

A total of R1.7bn had gone into fixing hospitals and clinics with R900 million used to repair roads and potholes.

He said some of the money had gone into repairing the sewerage system. - The Mercury


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