/ 22 January 2008

Zuma takes trip to Davos

African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma, the ruling party’s prime candidate for president of South Africa when incumbent Thabo Mbeki steps down next year, will be spending the rest of this week at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

”He has been invited there in his capacity as president of the ANC,” party spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said on Tuesday.

In this regard, he would not be speaking officially at the meeting, nor, Rikhotso said, did Zuma have a specific agenda he planned to pursue while in Davos.

”However, I am sure there are many of the world’s business leaders and politicians at the event who are going to want to discuss with him what is happening in South Africa.

”He is the one the ANC has decided will be presidential candidate at next year’s general elections,” he said.

The forum starts on Wednesday, and will end on Sunday. Among those attending are 1 000 of the world’s top business leaders, plus various heads of state and political leaders.

A South African government delegation to the forum is expected to include Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

Unlike in previous years, Mbeki will not be attending the global business summit.

Asked if Zuma had been mandated by his party to pursue any particular areas of interest, Rikhotso said this was not the case. He also did not know of any specific interviews or meetings the ANC head might have with politicians or business leaders while in Davos.

One of the items on the WEF’s 2008 programme is ”aligning interests across divides”, set against this year’s principal theme, ”The Power of Innovative Collaboration”.

In this regard, the forum’s website refers to ”countries endowed with energy and natural resources … [that] are demanding a greater voice in global governance and international business”.

It lists South Africa — along with the Arab Gulf states, Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil and Russia — among these.

Rikhotso said this was a topic on which Zuma might have discussions, and one of great interest to the ANC.

”We support the call for elevation of the voice of poor countries, particularly those from Africa,” he said.

Zuma is set to return home on ”about” January 28, Rikhotso said. — Sapa