No butler or spa: Zuma has to slum it in Addis Ababa

28 January 2018 - 00:04 By THANDUXOLO JIKA
President Jacob Zuma had to move into ambassador Ndumiso Ntshinga's home due to 'technicalities' that prevented him staying at the Sheraton.
President Jacob Zuma had to move into ambassador Ndumiso Ntshinga's home due to 'technicalities' that prevented him staying at the Sheraton.
Image: Supplied

President Jacob Zuma had to squat at the South African ambassador's house during this week's AU summit in Addis Ababa because his usual palatial accommodation was booked.

Since the AU's founding in 2001, South African presidents attending its summits have been accommodated in one of four sprawling executive suites - with private butlers and spa baths - at the Ethiopian capital's Sheraton Hotel.

But this week the four suites were understood to be fully booked by Moroccan delegates, attending their first summit since being readmitted to the continental body a year ago. Zuma had to move into ambassador Ndumiso Ntshinga's home, according to senior officials close to the presidency.

Zuma was one of the leading voices calling for Morocco's readmission more than three decades after it left when the AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, recognised the independence of the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Ntshinga declined to comment on his reported house guest.

"Even if that is the case we have always argued that it would save more money for South Africa if presidents were to be accommodated at ambassadors' houses than [at hotels]," he said.

A senior government official said the manager of the Sheraton had called to say the executive suites were all taken, and further inquiries revealed that Zuma was 19th on the waiting list for one of them.

Another senior official said: "The Moroccans booked out the Sheraton, where the president has stayed every year since becoming head of state. He will be sleeping at ambassador Ntshinga's official residence."

Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga confirmed that Zuma was staying at Ntshinga's house due to technicalities that prevented him staying at the Sheraton.

"There was a problem with accommodation at the Sheraton this year. In cases where there are certain challenges about suitable hotel accommodation the president takes over the residence of the South African ambassador in that country. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation made similar arrangements in Cote D’Ivoire last year during the Africa-EU summit where there were  accommodation challenges.
It is standard procedure," said Nqulunga.

The AU's 30th summit, which ends tomorrow, is focused on corruption. AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said it was deliberating on mechanisms for combating corruption as a means of transforming Africa.

Zuma announced last year that South Africa and Morocco were resuming diplomatic ties.

Rabat recalled its ambassador from Pretoria in 2004 when then-president Thabo Mbeki recognised Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as its own.