Jacob Zuma’s African inauguration

2014-05-25 15:00

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Africa was trending at President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration yesterday, both on the guest list and in the president’s speech.

Today is Africa Day, which commemorates the 51st anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, which is headed by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, making South Africa a respected player on the continent.

Among the guests assembled at the Union Buildings to celebrate the formal start of Zuma’s second term were Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Kenya’s President ­Uhuru Kenyatta and Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama.

President Armando Guebuza from Mozambique had a scare when his plane couldn’t land at Lanseria Airport, apparently due to faulty landing gear.

A visual inspection was done while the plane was in the air and he landed safely on the third attempt. Hardly any high-profile Western leaders attended, and many were likely represented by their diplomatic officials.

The strong African flavour of the guest list reflects a relationship with neighbouring countries that has evolved over the past 20 years from one marked by tensions to one that is much friendlier.

Wrapping up his speech, Zuma promised in the next five years of his presidency that South Africa “will continue to champion African growth, development and prosperity through supporting regional integration, intra-Africa trade and the development of infrastructure”.

“Our participation in various multi­lateral institutions such as the United Nations, G20 and special forums such as Brics will continue, aimed at promoting a fairer and more just world,” he said.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the low-level representation of the European Union and the US reflected a shift in South Africa’s relationship with those countries, but said it could also be a reflection of the tensions that have been created by Brics partner Russia in Ukraine.

He said the high-level attendance by fellow Africans could partly be attributed to the role the country has played in negotiating peace and peacekeeping.

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