AS IF he does not have enough on his plate, President Jacob Zuma walked wide-eyed into yet another storm following his “snub” of the main June 16 commemoration event in favour of jetting off to the G20 leaders’ summit in Mexico.
The unconvincing protests from his office that there was no snub make it difficult for South Africans to see this differently.
Zuma was scheduled to speak at the Youth Day rally in Port Elizabeth but, instead, flew to the G20 summit on Saturday while Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane was sent to Port Elizabeth. The minister was heckled during his speech by youths in apparent support of ousted ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.
Chabane tried manfully to present his speech, but all was lost amid the heckling and it was left to men in camouflage – presumably ANC military wing members – to restore order.
Zuma has been widely criticised for his move, but his spokesman, Mac Maharaj, tried to douse the flames, lamely stating: “The president is attending the G20 summit. Everything else is rumour.”
The president, who last week changed his cabinet again – ostensibly to strengthen his hand ahead of the governing party’s elective conference in Mangaung at the end of the year – is fighting a serious internal struggle for leadership within his organisation while also trying to rule the country. Not the easiest of tasks.
But we wonder about the kind of advice he gets from officials at the Union Buildings.
Zuma’s incumbency has been marred by controversial counsel from those supposed to guide his decisions... making life more difficult for him – and the country.
June 16 is not just another holiday. The events of the day 36 years ago are credited with setting SA on a path from the ravages of apartheid to freedom. Thus the day should be observed with dignity, not the shambles we witnessed at the weekend.
Perhaps this is an opportune time for Zuma (or his office) to learn from this debacle.