Pres­i­dent can­cels trip to the UK – for the sec­ond time – after Bri­tain re­fuses to give him an of­fi­cial au­di­ence with David Cameron

CityPress - - Front Page - CARIEN DU PLESSIS carien.du­p­lessis@city­press.co.za

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has pulled out of a high-level gath­er­ing aimed at mar­ket­ing South Africa to for­eign in­vestors after Bri­tain re­fused to grant him an of­fi­cial au­di­ence with Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron.

It would have been re­garded as a pri­vate visit and Zuma would have been re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing his own se­cu­rity and cav­al­cade, which of­fi­cials said would have been ex­pen­sive.

On Fri­day, the pres­i­dency is­sued a state­ment say­ing Zuma “will no longer at­tend the 3rd an­nual in­no­vaBRICS con­fer­ence in London”, which takes place on Mon­day.

The in­no­vaBRICS & Beyond Con­fer­ence is meant to pro­mote trade in South Africa and other Brics coun­tries in the UK, and there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties for net­work­ing. Zuma would have been there from yes­ter­day un­til Tues­day. It is the sec­ond time this year Zuma has can­celled a visit to the UK at short no­tice, some­thing which is not likely to go down well in diplo­matic cir­cles.

He was to have at­tended an of­fi­cial memo­rial ser­vice for Nel­son Man­dela in West­min­ster Abbey in Fe­bru­ary, but can­celled at short no­tice.

“That did dam­age and a num­ber of peo­ple asked whether he would re­ally come this time,” said a source close to diplo­matic cir­cles. “Do­ing it once was bad enough, but to do it twice? This time he wasn’t in­vited by Bri­tain though.”

Yes­ter­day, Zuma was still listed on the in­no­vaBRICS web­site as the key­note speaker of the con­fer­ence, along­side global chair­man of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Steve Al­mond; Stan­dard Char­tered chair­man Sir John Peace; Tata’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, David Lands­man; and the chief eco­nomic ad­viser to the mayor of London, Ger­ard Lyons. Zuma would have been the only gov­ern­ment leader speak­ing at the event.

On Thurs­day, a state­ment from the pres­i­dency an­nounced his in­ten­tion to de­liver a key­note ad­dress at the con­fer­ence “out­lin­ing South Africa’s role in Brics and on the African con­ti­nent, in light of South Africa’s Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan and Vi­sion 2063”.

He would also have en­gaged with “UK business lead­ers and opin­ion mak­ers” dur­ing his visit, ad­dressed an SA Cham­ber of Com­merce break­fast on Tues­day fol­lowed by a lunch lec­ture at Chatham House, a high-level in­flu­en­tial think-tank.

No rea­son for Zuma’s sub­se­quent with­drawal was given, but a di­ary is­sued late on Fri­day af­ter­noon stated he would be busy with ANC business at Luthuli House to­mor­row.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials in London with knowl­edge of the planned visit, Zuma’s of­fice in­sisted on meet­ing Cameron, but due to “di­ary is­sues” was of­fered a meet­ing with deputy prime min­is­ter Nick Clegg in­stead.

Zuma re­fused and, even on Fri­day, there were ne­go­ti­a­tions with Cameron about clear­ing a di­ary slot.

“There was a back­wards and for­wards about this for a cou­ple of days,” said the source. “It was all about pro­to­col. If they didn’t give him an of­fi­cial re­cep­tion, South Africa would have to pay a hell of a lot for a cav­al­cade.”

A pri­vate or a work­ing visit, like the one Zuma was plan­ning, would have meant he had to or­gan­ise his own trans­port and se­cu­rity de­tail, said an of­fi­cial, although it was not clear if this was the only rea­son Zuma had can­celled.

Another source with inside knowl­edge of the con­fer­ence said: “I gather folks in London are re­ally pissed off. Pres­i­den­tial travel takes a lot of pre­plan­ning and ad­vance work.”

South African gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, how­ever, down­played the can­cel­la­tion, say­ing it was pro­to­col for a vis­it­ing head of state to meet and greet the head of state of the host coun­try.

“It wouldn’t look right for the pres­i­dent to go and ad­dress a con­fer­ence with­out speak­ing to the prime min­is­ter,” said a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

“The con­fer­ence is a pri­vate thing or­gan­ised by business. It was an in­vite the pres­i­dency thought should be con­sid­ered pos­i­tively, but they were ad­vised it’s a pri­vate [and not gov­ern­ment] thing, and the pres­i­dency does not need to at­tend it.”

The of­fi­cial said Zuma and Cameron would have a chance to meet on the side­lines of the G20 meet­ing in Aus­tralia next month.

South Africa and Zuma will now be rep­re­sented by Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe, who will lead the del­e­ga­tion, Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Rob Davies, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi.

In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane was also orig­i­nally sup­posed to go, but is lead­ing a South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ob­server mis­sion to Botswana’s elec­tions.

Zuma’s spokesper­son, Mac Ma­haraj, said the pres­i­dent had can­celled be­cause his di­ary was resched­uled.

“The pres­i­dent’s di­ary is sub­ject to change at all time ac­cord­ing to re­quire­ments,” he said, but would not pro­vide de­tails.

Ma­haraj added that min­is­ters had al­ways at­tended the con­fer­ence. “This year, the four min­is­ters are the strong­est del­e­ga­tion we have ever sent,” he said.

Brand SA is one of the key spon­sors of the con­fer­ence and the in­ten­tion is to at­tract trade, in­vest­ment and tourism to South Africa to boost the econ­omy.

Spokesper­son for the Bri­tish High Com­mis­sion in Pre­to­ria Is­abel Pot­gi­eter said: “The decision to can­cel [Zuma’s] visit is a mat­ter for the South African gov­ern­ment.

“We do not com­ment on se­cu­rity mat­ters,” she added.


DIPLO­MATIC TIES Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and Queen El­iz­a­beth at a state ban­quet at Buck­ing­ham Palace in 2010. On Fri­day, the pres­i­dency said Zuma would no longer at­tend the 3rd an­nual in­no­vaBRICS con­fer­ence in London

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