Opposition parties took a dim view of President Jacob Zuma’s decision not to address the community of Vuwani on Sunday.
Residents in the area have been up in arms after the Municipal Demarcation Board moved Vuwani and surrounding areas into the Lim 345 municipality.
They gathered in a marquee tent from around 10:00, waiting on Zuma to address them, only to hear at approximately 15:00 that Zuma will not attend the gathering. Minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Des van Rooyen, was shouted down with chants of “Zuma! Zuma! Zuma!” when he tried to address the crowd.
Initially, it was reported that this decision was made because Zuma’s safety could not be guaranteed. However, the presidency later released a statement claiming he decided not to address the gathering because it was not “representative of the whole community affected by the establishment of the new municipality”.
Democratic Alliance MP and spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Kevin Mileham, said that Zuma “once again evaded accountability” when he refused to address the Vuwani residents.
“His refusal to address a crowd that may have been hostile, is a serious failure of leadership and undermines accountable governance. The President of the Republic cannot pick and choose only the most receptive crowds to address,” said Mileham.
“It is clear that people are fed up with the ANC in Vuwani. It is time for the ANC, from Jacob Zuma and Des Van Rooyen, to the entire Executive, to admit that it is perpetuating the crisis in Vuwani, rather than solving it.”
‘It’s time for Zuma to surrender’
Bongani Msomi, secretary general of the United Democratic Movement, said Zuma “must stop taking people for a ride and they must stop allowing this to happen”.
“It is with sadness that we witness the belittling behaviour of President Jacob Zuma towards the people of this country. His no-show at Vuwani, at the weekend, displays the clear arrogance of his government and his party,” said Msomi.
“President Zuma and his allies should be made to feel the anger of the citizens; the only ways to do this is for South Africans take back their power and punish the ruling party in 2019.”
Dennis Bloem, Congress of the People’s spokesperson, said Zuma must take full responsibility for the latest disruptions and destruction of property in Vuwani.
“Zuma’s failure to address the community on Sunday created the latest disaster. He promised to address the community but suddenly became too frightened to do so. Why Zuma got cold feet and scared of the people who voted for him as their President?” said Bloem.
“It is time for Zuma to surrender. He must just concede that the people of South Africa and the ANC don’t want him as their President anymore. He must do the honourable thing and resign.”
Bloem pointed out that this was the “second embarrassment” for Zuma in a week.
“The Vuwani incident came shortly after the booing at the recent Cosatu May Day rally where he was heckled and rejected by workers.”
Bloem called on residents to protest peacefully.
Vuwani residents have been disgruntled since April 2016 after villagers lost a court bid to remain under the Makhado municipality.
More than 20 schools were burnt and schooling disrupted for months during violent protests in 2016.