President Jacob Zuma has brushed aside being booed at the Workers Day celebration in Manguang on Monday‚ saying it was merely a reflection of democracy at work.
Asked whether he felt rejected by the people after the widely-reported incident‚ Zuma said: “Well‚ well‚ well. I have been hearing comments all over. The problem is that people have not understood how democracy works. You will agree with me that in the countries of dictators there is no protest‚ there is no booing. Protests‚ debates‚ booing is part of the culture of democracy. Unfortunately people misunderstand that and misread it.”
He said that in a political democracy people can engage heads of state‚ and can even criticise them and call for their removal.
“That’s the culture of democracy. If I was one of you I would write a column to educate people about democracy and say how South Africa is democratic. In a country where there is no democracy there will be an angry president charging the police to arrest people but democracy says let the people expresses themselves. That’s why in democracy governments are in a place democratically and can be removed democratically with the vote.”
“I don’t know what is it that makes people excited. Perhaps it’s newsworthy stuff‚ fine‚ but that is the culture of democracy. I’m very happy that South Africa is very matured and you have a president that they can talk to‚ whatever is in their minds.
“They are not going to be arrested and they are not going to be harassed. That is democracy. I wish I was a journalist and a columnist‚ I would educate people‚” he said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa on Wednesday.
However‚ Zuma almost lost his cool when one of the journalists asked him who represented the poor population at the event.
“Who represents the poor population? Well I haven’t heard that there are people who are not happy. Demonstrations are always there.”
However‚ when the journalist followed up the question with who elected Zuma‚ his bodyguards tried to stop him but Zuma interjected and pleaded with them to allow him to ask: “Who elected me? Just one minute‚ I must help him. Who elected this president? The masses. I am an African. I was elected by Africans. What’s your problem? You are imagining other masses.”
The exchange continued‚ with Zuma now posing questions to the journalist: “How do you describe the majority? Why do you think they don’t exist if you see us? You have a problem. Don’t push things that do not exist. Don’t ask me that question. The invitations come from the WEF. Why don’t you ask WEF why they don’t invite the masses. Why ask me? Don’t politicise things in the wrong way.”
Meanwhile‚ president Jacob Zuma said South Africa is pushing for radical economic transformation in order to achieve inclusive growth in a bid to close the gap between the rich and the poor.
Zuma was addressing the media after inspecting the readiness of facilities at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on Wednesday ahead of the start of the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting.
He said the WEF came at a time when the world was changing and entering the fourth industrial revolution — and the question facing the leaders of the world‚ both economically and politically‚ is how they meet the new challenges they are facing.
“In 2014 when we were in Davos the theme was that the gap between the poor and the rich is increasing. The question is what are we doing as leaders to close the gap. Are we just lamenting about the gap or doing something. Here in South Africa‚ we’re talking‚ for example‚ about radical economic transformation in order to address that‚ in order to achieve inclusive growth‚” said Zuma.
He said he is happy that WEF is happening in Africa as this will offer the continent’s leaders an opportunity to exchange views on economic and political issues to find solutions.
“Therefore‚ these leaders face that reality and I am happy that it [WEF] is happening here in Africa and we as Africans are no longer remaining behind with people talking on our behalves. We are part of the process and we’re therefore debating with the world what are the solutions of the world‚” he said.
Zuma said Africa is no longer discussing theory but projects that will make it easy to do business on the continent. “We’re interconnecting Africa. We’re developing infrastructure to make business easy to do in Africa. The message is come to Africa that’s where things are happening.”
Zuma said South Africa was the only country which practised institutionalised racism “and we have an additional point” to make. “That’s why we need to be more vocal‚ more clear and more focussed as to what we need to do and I’m happy we have this meeting here because we can exchange views on economic and political issues in order to be able to say which is the direction that we need to take.”
Meanwhile‚ at a breakfast event before the start of the conference‚ finance minister Malusi Gigaba lamented poor infrastructure across Africa.
“From a continental perspective poor infrastructure continues to undermine intra-continental trade. The combination of years of under-investment and exploitation has means that African roads and railways were mainly designed to facilitate transportation of raw materials and resourcecs to markets outside the continent.
“The consequences of poor infrastructure have been devastating. Intra-African trade is shockingly low at approximately 11%‚ whereas intra-Asian and North American trade are both 40%. Intra-continental trade in Europe sits at an impressive 60$. Unlocking industrial activity‚ intra-Africa trade‚ and growing Africa’s share of global trade‚ is crucial for Africa’s development‚” he said.
Gigaba was due‚ later on Wednesday‚ directly address the concept behind the current “radical economic transformation” catchphrase.
TMG Digital/Durban Newsroom