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Thu Apr 24 05:54:02 SAST 2014

Zuma's humiliation deserved - but at the wrong time

The Times Editorial | 11 December, 2013 00:03

It is a pity that, on the day the world came together to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, large sections of the crowd at the official memorial service heckled and booed President Jacob Zuma.

Not because our scandal-prone, often bumbling, president doesn't deserve it - he manifestly does.

But yesterday's memorial was the wrong day for people to vent their frustrations against the man whom the ANC chose to replace Thabo Mbeki, and who will probably carry the hopes of his party in the forthcoming general election.

Yesterday was a day to celebrate another man, one whose courage, integrity, tremendous leadership, humility and generosity of spirit shepherded our country from the brink of a race war and transformed it into a universally admired democracy.

It was doubly embarrassing that our president was pilloried in front of some of the world's most influential leaders and a global television audience of billions.

Rubbing salt into the wounds of Zuma, who appeared utterly deflated at times, was the fact that the huge South African crowd gave stirring ovations to US President Barack Obama, UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Mbeki, and even apartheid's last president, FW de Klerk.

Many might argue that the chickens have come home to roost for Zuma. After all, he did little to stop his dominant faction of the ANC from pouring contempt on his nemesis, Mbeki, in the run-up to the Polokwane ANC conference at which Zuma triumphantly assumed the party's reins.

It is also true that South Africa has drifted since Zuma became president, and that the Nkandla and Guptagate scandals have shaken many of his erstwhile supporters.

Yesterday was a day to celebrate a giant - and our president paid the price for failing to measure up.

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Thu Apr 24 05:54:02 SAST 2014 ::