Struggle stalwart Mac Maharaj decides to call it a day

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj will retire at the end of April. (Oupa Nkosi, MG)

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj will retire at the end of April. (Oupa Nkosi, MG)

The presidency has announced that its spokesperson and President Jacob Zuma’s special adviser, Mac Maharaj will retire at the end of this month.

The presidency announced Maharaj’s departure in a press statement on Tuesday afternoon. The spokesperson was also President Jacob Zuma’s special adviser.

“We wish to thank Mr Maharaj for this special service to the president and the country and wish him well in his retirement,” said Zuma in a statement.

According to the presidency’s statement, Maharaj – who turns 80 later this month – has decided that “it is time to slow down a bit”.

Last week Maharaj gave the clearest indication yet that he was about to retire when he owned up to an April Fool’s prank he played on the media and said “I won’t be here next year”, when a journalist suggested that the media would not believe him in future.

He had decided to have a last laugh because he said the media was nagging him with requests for comment on many issues, including the latest government report on the upgrades at Zuma’s private home in Nkandla.

“I was sitting there getting calls from you guys for comment on anything from Nkandla to the lottery. So I thought, okay, I’m going to reverse the roles and take the media for a ride,” he said.

A long journey comes to an end
Maharaj came back from political retirement to lead Zuma’s propaganda machinery in the presidency in 2011, after Zuma had faced several publicised scandals that painted his leadership in a negative light and exposed his office’s weak communication.

A former Robben Island political prisoner, Maharaj was one of the leaders of Operation Vula, a top-secret Umkhonto weSizwe operation in the late 1980s designed to strengthen the ANC’s armed wing inside South Africa.

He also served on the ANC’s national executive committee and the South African Communist Party’s central committee. Maharaj was a minister of transport in the first democratic government and left government in 1999 to join FirstRand Group.

The deputy director general in the Government Communication and Information System, Harold Maloka, will be the acting presidential spokesperson from the beginning of May.

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