Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma, under fire for his party’s poor showing in the elections, faced further humiliation when EFF protesters stood holding placards referring to his rape accuser, known as Khwezi, as he rose to deliver the closing address at the IEC announcements ceremony in Pretoria on Saturday night.
Zuma, who had stayed away from the results centre while Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and other ANC leaders fielded questions about the loss of the party’s majority in three major metros, stumbled over his words as he began his speech.
Before he had begun speaking, EFF members who had been seated in the front row, stood and walked out of the event, which was attended by international dignitaries.
Their protest gesture was overshadowed as four young women dressed in black rose and faced the audience.
They held up placards that together read: “I am 1 in 3, #10 years later, Khanga, Remember Khwezi.”
However, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula immediately posted a picture of one of the women protesters Simamkele Dlakavu in full EFF regalia.
Mbalula accused her of using women as tools to settle political scores.
Zuma was acquitted on the rape charges in 2006 after it was revealed he’d had sex with Khwezi, the daughter of a personal friend, despite knowing she was HIV-positive. Khwezi is now living in exile.
The EFF protest gave a clear indication that it has no intention of reconciling with the ANC and entering into a coalition with it, despite being in a position to hand the governing party control in Tshwane and Joburg.
Clearly off-balance, Zuma proceeded with his speech as journalists thronged around the protesters.
The four women were removed by security staff.
Zuma said the holding of the elections was testimony to the progress the country was making.
The people were the real victors in the election outcome and their will should prevail, he said.
While parties had waged their campaigns under different banners, “we are now one people”.
Elected representatives should now attend to the issues raised with them on the campaign trail so people could experience the fruits of democracy, Zuma said.
Earlier, chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said the results for Joburg would not be announced at the event as results from some voting districts in the city were being audited and finalised. However, he said the electoral commission had “aced” the elections, the toughest since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
He added that after the gruelling process of running the elections and counting the results, the IEC would “allow ourselves a moment of satisfaction”.
The fundamentals of the constitution had held and democracy continued to thrive and prosper, Moepya said.
When tested, the country had risen to the occasion. It remained proudly South African and fiercely democratic, Moepya added.
When Zuma had finished speaking, IEC deputy chairman Terry Tselane apologised to him for the disruption.
He said the women’s protest had taken the IEC by surprise. He also appealed to security staff to deal with the situation in a “sensitive manner”.
Later the IEC declared the elections free, fair and officially over, with the ANC winning the Joburg metro with 44.55 percent. The DA secured 38.37 percent and the EFF 11.09 percent.