No 1 puts Obama on hold

30 September 2015 - 11:29 By Kaunda Selisho

President Jacob Zuma may be fighting political firestorms at home, but he still commands loyalty from South Africans - at least when it comes to defending his cellphone manners.

Attending a luncheon of world leaders in New York this week, Zuma was photographed still holding a cellphone to his ear as US president Barack Obama greeted him with a handshake, prompting Obama to jokingly signal “he’s on the phone”.

Sharing the picture on its social media platforms, The Times asked its readers “who's more important to Zuma than Barack Obama, that he didn't put down the cellphone to greet the US president?”

Readers called on cultural practises of respect for elders including “Good Zuma. Obama is younger than you” and taking a stand that all elected leaders are equal, with views such as “President Barack Obama was supposed to wait for President Zuma to finish his call then talk to him, not interrupt him while talking......”.

But South Africans’ ability to find the humour in any situation couldn’t be contained.

Some of the funnier comments include:

Israel Zeh Khumalo: “Why greet our president while he is on the phone? Obama is very disrespectful and lacks manners... Zuma was busy talking to Putin and Obama is disturbing him”.

@Skhuluuh tweeted, “Obama should have respect for his elders… lol Jigga was talking to his bae”.

Ernesto Van der Moesie: “Zuma was telling people that he's with President Obama”.

Pedro Mafuna: “Guptas on the line, they wanted to chat to Obama. Zuma was the only link”.

Zwelibanzi Thwala: “Zuma has 5 wives so that little boy Obama should wait for Zuma to finish calling his wives at home”.

Tongman Adams: “This is not an issue, although ideally, he should if possible tell the person on the line that he will call him back, stand up and greet Obama properly, or any other president for that matter... But I guess he was talking to Thuli Madonsela... They have important things to discuss about the fire pool and chicken kraal”.

Niyo Kaganovich: “He was checking if MaKhamalo got the money to buy groceries for the family he sent, before you run to the Zuma homestead to check if the fridges are full. Ake sithi number one, Msho. Obama waWhere? For who?”

Bheki Malinga Sbhekeshe: “Luthuli House call, Obama must wait.”

Other readers of The Times were concerned about business etiquette, with ‏@LesleyEast tweeting: “Simple respect for all present would mean staying off the phone in the first place. Step outside if essential”.

Kiki Christine Sofiyea said the SA president’s conduct was disrespectful, writing: “No one is saying Zuma is not as important as Obama. But when a president attends a Summit he shouldn't take calls, no matter what! That's a meeting with world leaders isn't it? Obama was going from table to table to greet his fellow presidents. In the first place, Zuma shouldn't make/receive calls in such an important gathering. Secondly, when he saw Obama walking towards him, out of courtesy he should've ended his call”.