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R500 000 forked out for dining with Zuma

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Masood Boomgaard

THERE seems to have been no shortage of influence-seekers jostling to get a seat close to the president at the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum banquet taking place in Joburg next week.

Tables at the high-profile dinner are said to be sold out.

A seat at President Jacob Zuma’s table is said to have cost a whopping R500 000 and were snapped up within moments of becoming available.

The cheapest seat in the house went for around R2 500.

Zuma will host 600 businesspeople at the banquet and gala dinner, which starts at 6.30pm on Monday in the ballroom.

The banquet takes place on the sidelines of the ANC’s four-day policy conference, which, among other things, seeks to plot a new course for SA and will offer the business elite a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with the president and senior government leaders.

The conference itself will also bring together business and government leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA.

The ANC offered sponsorship packages to businesses that included an exhibition area, entrance to the VIP lounge and access to daily business breakfasts running during the conference.

The elite titanium package sold for R500 000 and guaranteed the sponsor a seat at Zuma’s table at the dinner, to be hosted at Gallagher Convention Centre.

The platinum package included a table with a cabinet minister present for R250 000, the gold package lands one a table hosted by a deputy minister for R100 000 while the cheapest package, the silver package, bought a table hosted by an MEC.

Renier Schoeman, co-convener of the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum, said it was no secret who sat at the tables but that all would be revealed on Monday night.

The package prices are said to have been a “guideline”, and some generous sponsors have offered to pay way above the suggested prices for tables.

“Everything is sold,” a member of the organising team said this week.

“Why did you only call today?

“As soon as you see the advert you have to buy.

“Everyone wants to be there.

“It sold out very fast,” she said.

The official said the organisation had been very pleased with the response to their call for sponsors.

The banquet usually attracts most of the country’s top business leaders, company bosses and political heavyweights with strong ANC links.

A strong KZN contingent is expected to attend the banquet.

Close Zuma ally Vivian Reddy confirmed that he will be there, but will not be attending the entire conference.

He said he was invited by the ANC to attend the banquet and did not purchase a table.

Reddy said several high-profile KZN businessmen will also be attending the banquet.

“It is the place to be if you want to be known and want to make some serious government contacts,” said one ANC-linked businessman.

“Half a million is nothing for some of these guys, as long as they get to be near Zuma it’s worth it,” he added.

Racehorse mogul and ANC uMhlanga branch chairman Roy Moodley also said he would be attending the banquet, but would not be paying to do so. “I did not buy any package, I have been invited,” he said.

The ANC’s policy conference begins on Tuesday and will conclude on Friday.


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