PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has come under fire for not rebuking ANC supporters who booed Western Cape acting Premier Patricia de Lille at the country’s official Human Rights Day event in Cape Town yesterday.
De Lille, who was standing in for DA leader and Western Cape Premier Hellen Zille, was shouted down by unruly ANC supporters when she tried to address the crowd.
Meanwhile, police had to intervene during the Nelson Mandela Bay celebrations when Cope members stormed the stage at Jabavu Stadium and refused to return to the grandstand until the ANC-led council acknowledged Cope had the right to hold its event there instead of the council.
Cope claimed it had booked and paid for the venue before the council said it would use the stadium. Later, Cope members booed and sang during ANC speeches and announcements.
In Cape Town, Zuma, the main speaker at the event, did not go to De Lille’s defence and never mentioned the incident when he spoke.
Sent to represent the Western Cape government, De Lille, the MEC for Social Development, was introduced as the first of six speakers. The others were all ANC leaders.
Youths, many wearing ANC T-shirts with Zuma’s face on them and waving ANC flags, jeered, booed and made insulting gestures throughout De Lille’s address.
“It is a great irony that ANC supporters use Human Rights Day to abuse the very rights we are meant to celebrate,” Zille said later.
Zille, who was in Mpumalanga for a DArally, said the crowd had turned a government event into an ANC rally at taxpayers’ expense.
“But people see through that kind of abuse. South Africans generally do not tolerate this kind of thing.”
Tony Ehrenreich, the Western Cape Cosatu leader expected to fight De Lille and the DA for the Cape Town mayor’s chain in the May 18 election, also criticised the failure of the ANC leadership to impose order.
Writing on Facebook, he criticised “the lack of a stern rebuke” from ANC leaders on the podium. “Come on comrades, political intolerance is non-negotiable. It’s the start of a slippery slide down if we do not insist on it,” he said.
Pointing out that De Lille had been invited by the organisers, he added: “The event was a government event and not an ANC event.”
ANC Western Cape chairman Marius Fransman, who is also Deputy Minister of International Relations, tried to quieten the crowd without success.
The crowd shouted “no, no” when veteran ANC leader Jeff Radebe, the Minister of Justice, appealed to them: “Can we be quiet please and listen to the opening remarks.”
ANC veteran Lawrence Mushwana, the Human Rights commissioner, spoke in his prepared remarks about the importance of freedom of speech in a democracy.
A statement later issued by the SA Human Rights Commission said the organisers should have ensured the booing was completely stopped so De Lille could finish her speech.
“The commission views this as a disturbing act of intolerance which contradicts the constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of speech and human dignity.”
It said it hoped all leaders would speak out against such actions. – Additional reporting by Sapa