It’s all about you, isn’t it, Mr Pres­i­dent?

CityPress - - Voices -

The stage might well have been in KwaZulu-Na­tal. The mu­si­cians per­form­ing in Klip­town, Soweto, for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s 75th birthday bash were all from KwaZulu-Na­tal. The pres­i­dent de­liv­ered his en­tire speech in deep isiZulu. ANC Women’s League pres­i­dent Batha­bile Dlamini fol­lowed suit. As did ANC Youth League gen­eral-sec­re­tary Njab­ulo Nzuzo. Noth­ing sur­pris­ing there. Zuma gen­er­ally takes pride in his ru­ral roots and of­ten uses his back­ground to claim that he is be­ing un­der­mined pre­cisely be­cause of that.

How­ever, a com­mon Zulu cultural prac­tice was ig­nored as the des­per­ate pres­i­dent sought to show his softer side af­ter all the crit­i­cism he has been sub­jected to.

The pop­u­larly adored child Ont­lametse Pha­latse, who suf­fered from pre­ma­ture age­ing dis­or­der proge­ria, died on Tues­day.

Ont­lametse had met Zuma last month as part of her bucket list. Af­ter meet­ing her, Zuma com­mit­ted to build­ing her and her mother a house and buy­ing them a car.

Zuma had in­tended to an­nounce these achieve­ments on his birthday, as­sum­ing of course that Ont­lametse would still be alive.

But de­spite her death, Zuma pro­ceeded any­way. Ont­lametse’s griev­ing mother, Bel­lone, was made to leave her home dur­ing her pe­riod of mourn­ing to sit through a whole af­ter­noon of po­lit­i­cal speeches so that Zuma the Benev­o­lent could parade her on stage and give her the keys to the new car.

It was bla­tantly dis­re­spect­ful of Zuma to push for the woman to break her mourn­ing pe­riod in or­der to at­tend his birthday bash.

It was par­tic­u­larly shame­ful for the pres­i­dent – who has been un­der im­mense pres­sure to re­sign – to use the sad story of Ont­lametse to try to show his car­ing side.

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