The weird world of politics: Speechless president

2013-07-07 14:00

Short and curlies

Dynamite comes in small packages.

Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu proved this when proposing a toast at the US embassy’s Fourth of July celebrations on July 3 in Pretoria.

Sotyu turned out to be almost shorter than the podium she stepped on to, saying: “It seems the structure doesn’t fit the portfolio.”

But she did assure the diplomats attending that she was fully in control of this portfolio by adding: “I can assure you those tall policemen, when they see me, they run away.”

She didn’t say whether this meant they’re cowards.

Regrettable revolution

The ANC Youth League has apparently not lost its internationalist touch. Soon after the military coup in Egypt this week (some preferred to call it a revolution), the youngsters issued a late-night statement reflecting – in the superlative – the South African government’s official stance: “The ANC Youth League has noted with immense regret the military coup d’état in Egypt.”

To those who don’t know better, it might seem that the youngsters were personally involved in the changes up north.

This delusion isn’t new.

Way back then, deputy league president Andile Lungisa ascribed the Arab Spring to the Youth Kissing Festival when the two almost coincided.

Speechless president

There was a whole lot of collegial guffawing and back-slapping when US President Barack Obama came to visit our President Jacob Zuma of Nkandla last weekend.

The first day of talks and giggles ended in a presidential banquet dinner where protocol staff accidentally placed Obama’s speech in front of Zuma on the podium.

It took Zuma only a minute of blank staring – and no giggling – to realise this.

Obama very elegantly tried to put his host at ease by saying: “It is not the first time a president found himself without a speech.”

Perhaps Zuma’s protocol staff were trying to do him a favour by misplacing his speech because they know he’s better off the cuff.

Lost in translation

US President Barack Obama realised that, in the friendly South Africa, it’s not enough to greet only once.

You have to say it in each official language.

In Joburg it took the crowd only a few seconds to latch on to his American pronunciation of “yebo Mzanzi”, but his Tswana greeting, “dumela”, to a Cape Town crowd went down like a blue T-shirt in Luthuli House.

Some have suggested he should have taken advice on the matter beforehand, but apparently there were as many opinions on the salutation issue as local advisers.

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