Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Mac Maharaj: In his own words

When Mac Maharaj was appointed as President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson in 2011, he told the Mail & Guardian he had had no choice when Zuma asked him to take the position. As it turned out (rather obviously), the Mac would earn his salary by saving the president’s behind … several times. We’re not saying Mac’s responses were always airtight, sometimes they were far from it, but his entertaining retorts will be missed.

Uncle Mac retires as he approaches the ripe old age of 80. But his most memorable quotes will remain as fresh as the day he served them to the South African public.

1. Zuma came under fire recently for his remarks that teenage mothers should be separated from their babies until they had completed their schooling. He said: “They must be educated by government until they are empowered and they can take care of their kids; take them to Robben Island or any other island, sit there, study until they are qualified to come back and work to look after their kids.”  

Many people were outraged by the president’s remarks and Maharaj had to intervene. 

“President Zuma was emphasising the need for teenagers to focus on their studies and said children should not be raising children,” Maharaj said. “The statements by commentators that the president singled out girl children only for criticism with regards to teenage pregnancy is incorrect,” Maharaj added.

2. When the Nkandla scandal broke, Maharaj was tested and he had to defend Zuma as political parties and the media sought answers from the president about the money spend on his KwaZulu-Natal homestead. Here are some of the memorable quotes from uncle Mac on Nkandla:

“We urge the media to respect the agencies that are investigating the various aspects of the security enhancements at the residence as speculations and rumour-mongering will not assist the process.”

When public protector Thuli Madonsela sent Zuma the provisional report on Nkandla, Maharaj said: “We have not seen the report as yet, to the best of my knowledge.”

When Zuma did not respond to the demand in the public protector’s final report that he pay back some of the money spent on Nkandla, Madonsela wrote him a letter demanding a response. Maharaj responded and said: “We have received the letter from Ms Madonsela and it is being attended to.”

As the Nkandla debate continues, political parties in Parliament have demanded that the president answer questions as to when he will pay back the money. Some said Zuma was avoiding Parliament. As expected, Maharaj issued a statement defending Msholozi: “The continuing statements by political parties that President Jacob Zuma has avoided going to Parliament are incorrect and are creating a wrong impression.” 

3. Zuma sparked controversy when he tried to convince motorists to accept the country’s plan to toll highways around Johannesburg. “We are in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi,” he said. Maharaj had to defend Zuma’s controversial comments about Malawi. “The words have regrettably been taken out of context and blown completely out of proportion.” 

4. The Gupta guests (linked to Zuma) landing at the Waterkloof air force base in Pretoria to attend a family wedding sparked controversy. Instead of answering questions from the media, Maharaj said he didn’t want to respond to “rumours” about Zuma’s anger. “There’s an inter-departmental investigation going on and, as the presidency, we wouldn’t want to comment while that investigation is going on.”

As soon as the news broke, Twitter users were keen to back Mac up with some thoughts of their own:

Marnus Breed @MarnusBreed thinks Maharaj deserves the break:

Maharaj was complimented for his hard work:

Maharaj in meme form:

Journalists joined in and shared some of the experiences they had dealing with the struggle stalwart:

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Sthembiso Sithole
Sthembiso Sithole is a social media specialist. He recently studied BA Honours in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2014, he obtained his journalism qualification at Tshwane University of Technology. He has achieved so much, and there are tons more he dreams of accomplishing. He has written for The Star, was a blogger for JournTau, worked at SABC as a Digital News Producer and was formerly the Mail & Guardians social media editor.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R350 relief grant will be paid into bank accounts or...

There are concerns that post office branch closures will make it difficult for beneficiaries to access the grant

South Africa at risk of spillover from international inflation, economists...

Higher international oil prices, for example, could affect local transport costs through second-round effects

More top stories

Companies affected by unrest can apply for support as soon...

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi urges employers to be honest when applying for help

Mboweni extends R38bn to cope with double calamity of Covid-19...

The finance minister extended the Ters relief and the social distress relief grant, and also ensured businesses hit by looting can access insurance

South Africa appalled that Israel given AU observer status

The international relations department has released a statement condemning the decision

Coal on a drive to delay its demise

The just transition that is currently being executed is a balance between energy security and climate change, according to one analyst
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×