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As it emerged that President Jacob Zuma had pulled out at the last minute from Youth Day celebrations in Port Elizabeth today amidst reports of a plan to disrupt the event, his nemesis Julius Malema confirmed he was definitely going to PE for the celebrations.
“I’m going to the government event… the national event. I am a citizen of this country,” Malema told Weekend Argus. “I don’t care who likes it or not, I’m there.”
While Zuma’s address at the National Youth Development Agency-organised celebration was still on his diary on the Presidency website yesterday, his office issued a statement yesterday afternoon saying the president would instead be going to the G20 summit in Mexico, which starts on Monday.
News reports yesterday were that security was being tightened for Zuma’s appearance in PE to deal with a threat by angry ANC Youth League members to “embarrass” him by disrupting his speech, in a re-run of the heckling he faced during an ANC centenary lecture in Cape Town earlier this year.
Youth leaguers were believed to be incensed by a decision by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) earlier this week not to review the decision to expel Malema – a move they blamed on Zuma.
Reports from the NEC meeting suggested there had been heated exchanges between those supporting a review of the decision, and senior ANC leaders loyal to Zuma, who argued against it.
The reason for the sudden change to Zuma’s diary remains unclear.
Spokesman in the presidency Bongani Majola told Independent Newspapers yesterday there was “no change”, and that Zuma would be going to Mexico.
However, when it was pointed out that the Youth Day event was still on the website diary, he said: “I don’t have answers to that, I just know that Minister (in the Presidency Collins) Chabane, who is part of the Presidency, will represent the Presidency and government.” A second Presidency statement yesterday afternoon said Chabane would represent Zuma at the Wolfson Stadium in PE, delivering a speech on his behalf.
Zuma had been expected to announce the members of the NYDA board at the event, but it emerged this week that the appointments had been delayed because of glitches in the interview process in Parliament.
Meanwhile, youth league deputy president Ronald Lamola said yesterday he would not join the celebrations in PE, but would be in Saldanha Bay, where he would be accompanied by members of the league’s NEC.
League NEC member Abner Mosaase, who is headed for PE, said he was not yet aware of the president’s change in schedule.
When asked if there were plans by league members to disrupt the proceedings, Mosaase said: “It cannot be true… not in that province.” - The Weekend Argus