A woman purporting to be one of President Jacob Zuma’s daughters went to Morocco on an ANC ticket and pledged South Africa’s intention to strengthen relations.
Last month, Ntombi Msiza, who says she is a daughter of Zuma, attended the annual Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla, a town in the so-called occupied zone of Western Sahara, claimed by both Morocco and the Sahrawi Polisario Front.
The forum, organised by the Swiss-based American think-tank, was attended by heads of state, first ladies, ministers, speakers of parliaments, MPs, and former heads of state and government, as well as by 850 “foreign personalities”, according to the forum’s web site.
The forum was held from March 17 to 22 “under the high patronage of King Mohammed VI of Morocco”. The site said “a large delegation of the African National Congress” attended the event, including “Mrs Ntombenhle Perpetua Msiza, daughter of President Jacob Zuma, and Mr Lindi Rufus Radebe, chairman of international relations”.
Several Moroccan and francophone African newspapers also wrote that the event was attended by the daughter of Zuma.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Majola, told Jeune Afrique that Msiza wasn’t Zuma’s daughter. The Mail & Guardian has learnt that her parents were in the struggle and knew Zuma from the days of exile.
The M&G could not contact Msiza, but a friend who knows her from childhood said: “She is very close to Number One and their family relations go way back. She often talks about herself as a daughter, not as a blood relation, but in terms of a bigger family.”
Msiza sometimes does events and marketing management work for some of Zuma’s wives’ foundations.
Some sources have been less kind, saying Msiza name-drops Zuma and uses her ANC links to get contracts.
She has apparently been involved in Moroccan youth initiatives for several years.
Pro-Sahrawi bloggers have criticised the ANC’s alleged attendance at the event. One website that fights for the independence of Western Sahara said: “The attendance at the forum of their high-ranking officials is nevertheless profoundly embarrassing for both the UN [United Nations] and the ANC.”
The ANC has advocated for the independence of the Western Sahara from Morrocco’s rule. South Africa is one of the few countries that hosts an embassy of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and staunchly defends the ANC position in the African Union.
Yet Msiza, on a video clip by the official forum media Dakhla Live, recorded last year and posted on dailymotion.com, said she had been going to Morocco for the past seven years.
“So, when I heard about the conference from the foreign ministry of Morocco, I thought it would be interesting and exciting for South Africa to participate, mainly because we’re trying to build relations between Morocco and South Africa …
“This was an opportunity to build bridges,” she said, “to build an affiliation between Morocco and Africa”.
The family source said Msiza is going back to Morocco soon with a business delegation.
Speaking to atlasinfo.fr last month, Msiza said this year’s delegation was 12-strong, up from the four who attended the forum last year.
She also claimed that two senior officials were “sent by our ruling political party to see for themselves, to make their own decisions, so that they are not spoonfed by us”.
The ANC last year issued a statement denying it had sent a delegation to the forum, and spokesperson Khusela Sangoni told the M&G this week: “To the best of our knowledge, there was no ANC delegation sanctioned to attend Crans Montana Forum in Morocco.”
The ANC’s international relations subcommittee members said they do not know Radebe or Msiza. The committee is headed by Edna Molewa, the minister of water and environmental affairs.
Barbara Castagnetta, the forum’s general manager, said Msiza and Radebe attended the Dakhla event on the basis of the positions they stated in their application forms.
In an email, she quotes an article published in April last year by Jeune Afrique about a meeting between the Moroccan MP Mehdi Bensaid, who heads the commission for international relations in the Moroccan Parliament and “an ANC delegation lead by Lindi Rufus Radebe, his South African counterpart, and Ntombelihle Perpetua Msiza, the daughter of President Jacob Zuma”.
The ANC has a cool relationship with Morocco. In the party’s January 8 statement this year, Zuma said: “The ANC advocates for the self-determination, freedom and independence of Western Sahara and will intensify our solidarity programme with the Polisario Front. The ANC commits to raising the urgency of their struggle for self-determination and freedom in all multilateral institutions. Companies that exploit mineral resources in the occupied part of Western Sahara should be isolated.”
In its most recent statement, the ANC said it condemns the decision by Morocco to pull out of the UN-led peace process in the Western Sahara. Morocco cancelled its financial contributions and recalled its troops participating in the UN Mission for Western Sahara following a statement by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, in which he referred to the “occupation” of Western Sahara.
The department of international relations referred questions to the head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, but because of a death in his family he could not comment.