National

Zuma's booing brouhaha echoes through his heartland

Verashni Pillay

If President Jacob Zuma was hoping to leave the booing at Nelson Mandela's memorial behind him with the rest of 2013, he is in for a rude surprise.

A man watches President Jacob Zuma's speech at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, held on December 10.(Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

If President Jacob Zuma was hoping to leave the booing at Nelson Mandela's memorial behind him with the rest of 2013, he is in for a rude surprise.

According to reports, a televised screening of President Jacob Zuma was greeted with more heckling by revellers seeing in 2014 in Zuma's heartland of KwaZulu-Natal, although some authorities denied this.

It is claimed the booing happened at a New Year's Eve party called Fact Durban Rocks at the People's Park at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban, which took place from 6pm to 6am. Thousands of participants attended live performances by top South African artists such as Mafikizolo and Zakes Bantwini.

But many of the young audience, who represent a key voting market for the ANC, were apparently unimpressed by a screening of Zuma's New Year's Eve address on massive screens.

Puseletso Moteme (23) was at the stadium with friends and saw the broadcast during a break in the performances. "They booed Zuma … It was very loud," she said. "We couldn't really hear him; people were making noise, saying they must cut him off."

Several other partygoers also said they saw the broadcast. "A few guys behind us booed him," said one, who preferred to remain anonymous. "For me, they were making a joke."

Zuma's defenders were quick to downplay the heckling, or even deny it took place at all. One, Nkomo'omhle Masikane, claimed on Twitter that it was the fault of the Gauteng ANC once again, bused in to cause disruptions. The provincial branch of the party, considered to be anti-Zuma, was also accused of being the bogeyman behind the booing of the president at Mandela's memorial.

Two organisers of the event, DJ Tira and production manager Chad White, denied that Zuma's address was screened. But White was indoors for the event and Tira arrived later in the evening. Tira conceded that the screens may have shown Zuma's address during advertising breaks, while the concert was being broadcast live on the SABC 1 show, Come Duze, between 9pm and 1am. Parts of SABC 1's coverage was shown on screens at the event and several sources said that Zuma's address was televised on the channel that night.

The production company for Come Duze, S'khonyana Productions, could not be reached for comment.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj confirmed that the president's message had been televised but was unable to say whether it has been broadcast at the party in Durban. He said the presidency was not concerned about further booing taking place in 2014.

However, Zuma must face another stadium full of people when he delivers the party's January 8 statement in Mpumalanga, which is held on the weekend closest to the date – this year on Saturday January 11.

Meanwhile, SABC employees have been instructed not to broadcast any reports on calls for Zuma to step down, the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers' Union said last week.


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