Zuma’s Intriguing Visit to Russia
What was the ‘real’ purpose of the trip? In seeking to answer this question, the media resorted to speculation and ‘reading between the lines’; The logical and obvious questions regarding the presidential trip became: ‘why now and why Russia?’ JAMES N. KARIUKI reports
At the end of August, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma embarked upon what was called a ‘working visit’ to Russia. Officially, Zuma’s objectives in Moscow included discussing trade enhancement between the Russian Federation and South Africa, searching for investment opportunities and for the South African president to get some rest. But, given their propensity for curiosity, the news media immediately wondered aloud why the details of an official presidential visit seemed to be shrouded by a veil of secrecy in both South Africa and Russia.
The ‘resting’ claim for Zuma was unconvincing. It is true that the President may have needed some rest given his grueling election campaign earlier in the year, his generally questionable health condition and the turbulent events of the first three months of his second term. But, since the trip coincided with the beginning of one of Russia’s notoriously brutal winters, weather alone virtually ruled it out as a vacationing destination of choice for an aging African leader.
On the other hand, if Zuma went to Moscow to promote bilateral trade cooperation and investment opportunities, why is it that his delegation did not include personnel from the rel- evant Department of Trade and Industry or from the cabinet’s economic cluster? Oddly, the president’s senior official entourage was composed of only the State Security Minister and the International Relations Deputy Minister. To consummate the intrigue, Zuma was not accompanied by a single official journalist.
What was the ‘real’ purpose of the trip? In trying to find the answer to this question, it was natural and perhaps inevitable that the news media resorted to speculation and reading between the lines. In this regard, the logical and obvious questions regarding the presidential trip became: ‘why now and why Russia?’
In the process of the much speculation that followed, analysts reminded all that Zuma’s presidency has always been dogged by controversy. But in late August 2014, just prior to the Russian trip, that same presidency became truly embattled. At that time two political crises converged and seemed to escalate to a crescendo.
Challenges posed by these crises were indeed daunting, sufficiently unsettling to prompt observers to liken them to the infamous US Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. It was that political scandal that pushed President Richard M. Nixon to his historic resignation of 1974 and infected the American body politic forev-