Thunderstorm forces Zuma to abandon traditional heritage festival

2012-11-05 07:12

President Jacob Zuma had to abandon a traditional heritage festival of the amaMpondomise people when a powerful thunderstorm broke out and part of the tent he was in collapsed in the rain and wind.

Zuma, flanked by the local traditional leaders, KwaZulu-Natal premier and ANC provincial chairperson Zweli Mkhize, Eastern Cape ANC chairperson and MEC Phumulo Masualle, and Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyana, entered the big tent erected for the ceremony in Lotana, about 50 km north east of Mthatha, just as the rain started yesterday.

By the time the formalities got underway, there were heavy showers and thunder outside, and the wind caused part of the tent to almost collapse over the stage where the dignitaries were sitting.

When this happened a second time, Zuma was whisked outside by his staff and left a while later in the chopper he arrived in, without having spoken.

Earlier he had visited the graves of the ancestors and a well from which the clan and the ancestors got their water. Zuma was also served meat which had been freshly slaughtered for the ceremony.

The ceremony, which was organised by the clan, also turned into a second-term campaign of sorts when some of his political supporters played songs praising him and handed out T-shirts with Zuma and a two-fingered sign, denoting a second term.

Villagers said the rain was a good sign for Zuma and an omen that he would return.

Somila Fana, a secondary school teacher from the Mahlungulu village nearby, said “when there is rain that is a blessing for us”.

It would only be “when there is stones (hail)” that the rain would turn into a bad sign.

She said she supported Zuma’s re-election. “When he came to power things were not well,” she said.

“We have to start mending things from the first president (Thabo Mbeki).”

She said she’s an ANC member but did not attend the branch meeting that nominated candidates for the ANC’s elective congress in Mangaung, and she didn’t know who her branch had nominated.

AmaMpondomise traditional leader Nkosi Simphiwe Molosi said the visit of both Mkhize and Zuma had nothing to do with politics, but had more to do with their cultural links with the clan.

He said Mkhize’s amaMbo clan of Mbumbulu shared ancestors with his people, and the leaders of the two clans attended each other’s traditional festivities.

Molosi said he was not disappointed that the storm broke before Zuma spoke to members of the community, saying he it was important that he had attended the key rituals.

Zuma had also attended the gathering several time since 2004, he said.

The clan is contesting the decision of the Nhlapo commission not to recognise its claim to kingship, and the matter is currently before the Mthatha high court.

It was Zuma’s second visit to the Eastern Cape this week as the charm offensive in the second biggest ANC province heats up ahead of the party’s elective congress in Mangaung in December.

He also visited the province last Sunday to pay tribute to former ANC president OR Tambo in what was deemed by his detractors as an attempt to take the wind out of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s presidential campaign.

Motlanthe had to postpone his visit until Saturday, when he addressed an ANC Youth League rally in what was widely regarded as a belated launch of his presidential campaign.

Zuma’s visit also comes at the end of a week in which Zuma endorsed the spirit of the Traditional Courts Bill while acknowledging the criticism against it in an address to the House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament.

There he also slammed black people “who become too clever”, saying “they became the most eloquent in criticising themselves about their own traditions and everything”.

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