FORMER president Jacob Zuma put his legal woes aside yesterday as he again played his annual role of a doting Santa, throwing a Christmas party for the children of his rural village of KwaNxamalala in Nkandla, northern KwaZlulu-Natal.
On Thursday, Zuma had lavished Christmas gifts on senior citizens from the area, including blankets, walking sticks and food parcels.
Yesterday, he showered presents on hundreds of children, including footballs, backpacks, blankets and food parcels. The Christmas party, scheduled to start at 10am, began two hours later, with children awaiting his arrival.
They were not deterred, as local artists provided a welcome distraction, regaling them with musical performances as the wait for Zuma’s security protection convoy dragged on.
Security personnel were on high alert and several members of the SAPS patrolled Mnyakanya High School, from where Zuma’s R246million homestead can be seen.
Private security, provided by Durban businessman Calvin Mathibeli’s Calvin and Family Security Services, scanned every individual entering the premises. Mathibeli was recently interdicted by the Durban High Court, at the behest of eThekwini Municipality mayor Zandile Gumede, after he alleged that he had to pay her R100000 to keep his share of a multimillion-rand contract that he was jointly awarded in 2015. He alleged that when he would not make another donation, his contract was cancelled.
Not even the children were spared the security sweep, as they had to pass through hand-held metal detectors.
Security personnel stationed at the entrance to the steel-frame marquee provided the children with packs of fruit, juice, meat and rolls to stave off hunger and thirst in the humidity engulfing KwaNxamalala. An hour after the event was scheduled to begin, children from the area were still filing into the marquee, which was by then packed - but with Zuma nowhere in sight, as the master of ceremonies worked overtime promising that “our President Msholozi” was well on his way to enjoy the Christmas party with them. When Zuma eventually arrived some two hours later, he was greeted with ululation and applause from the gathered crowd. Upon disembarking from his heavily guarded sports utility vehicle, Zuma was welcomed by KwaZulu-Natal Acting Premier Sihle Zikalala and KZN Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi.
Zuma was in a jovial mood as he cracked jokes with the youth and turned his address into an educational session. He said that when he formed the Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust he wanted black children to be educated and make a contribution towards the development of South Africa. “It was hard when we were first talking about the formation of the bursary scheme, because some in politics said that I was canvassing for votes,” said Zuma.
He added that people were now confusing things with talk of expropriation of land without compensation, whereas the Freedom Charter was clear that land, banks and mines should be nationalised.