President Jacob Zuma must apologise for fathering an illegitimate child and strive to set a better example, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Tuesday.
Zille said Zuma’s behaviour was at odds with the African National Congress’s (ANC) policies on HIV prevention.
The ruling party was wrong to say his reported extramarital relationship with the daughter of Orlando Pirates boss Irvin Khoza was purely a private matter, she said.
“For this reason, the president ought to apologise and act to better embody the values he advocates for other South Africans.”
The ANC on Monday rushed to Zuma’s defence amid outrage over the affair, which Zille and other critics said would damage the fight against HIV/Aids in the country. It said it did not see a correlation between Zuma’s personal relationships and the ANC’s policies on HIV/Aids.
“There is nothing wrong that the president has done,” said party spokesperson Brian Mthembu. “As the ANC, we have always made a distinction between people’s personal affairs and their public responsibilities.”
Zille countered that elected public officials had to embody the principles and values for which they stand.
“They embody a series of principles and should be able to explain their actions in terms of those principles. Jacob Zuma cannot do this,” she said.
“If Jacob Zuma says unprotected sex with multiple partners is bad in public, he is expected to uphold these values in private, otherwise there is little or no reason to take seriously anything he or his government says.”
After he was acquitted of rape in 2006, Zuma apologised for having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive daughter of a family friend. The judge found that he had consensual sex with the complainant.
“I wish to state categorically and place on record that I erred in having unprotected sex. I should have known better and I should have acted with greater caution and responsibility,” he said.
Zille said that although she believed he should apologise again, this might ring hollow.
“The only question is whether, if he apologises this time around, anyone will actually believe him.”
‘Not encouraging at all’
The parliamentary leader of the Congress of the People (Cope), Mvume Dandala, has joined the rising chorus of opposition politicians criticising Zuma for the example he has set in the fight against Aids.
Although Cope claimed that it did not want to score political points on the issue, Dandala raised concerns about the president’s inability to set a good example for the nation by leading the fight against the Aids pandemic
“The president’s actions are not encouraging at all considering that a recent survey released on behavioural change on HIV/Aids confirmed that since 2006 condom use has been on the decrease in our country, which flies in the face [of] fighting the pandemic.”
Dandala said on Tuesday that on World Aids day all citizens listened to and appreciated the president’s message on how government intended to deal with the pandemic. “We all praised him, promising to support all efforts to deal with the HIV/Aids pandemic,” he said. “In our view, the president is the most famous person at this stage in the country, and as he enjoys status of citizen number one, we believe that it is paramount that he follows through his messages with actions.”
Meanwhile, the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) on Tuesday snarled over media reports about Zuma’s sex life — but at the same time preached monogamy to the youth.
“We have never ventured into the sex lives of the elderly,” Sasco secretary general Lazola Ndamase told reporters in Johannesburg.
Sasco was not shy to speak to the youth about their sex lives, but it was disrespectful toward the elderly to report on Zuma’s sex life. — Sapa, I-Net Bridge