Too polite to moan?

2012-01-12 00:00

IF they were upset, they were too polite to say so.

African diplomats yesterday dismissed reports that their heads of government had not received red carpet treatment at the ANC’s centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein and had to embark on some hasty shopping when they found no food, crockery or bedding at their upmarket accommodation.

The reports were based on interviews with 15 women, who were part of a team of 90 contracted to work as chefs, waitresses, cleaners and housekeepers at the luxury Woodlands Wildlife Estate.

It was alleged, among other things, that the delegations from Nigeria and Benin were so unimpressed with conditions that they left soon after arrival.

Nigerian High Commission spokesperson Peter Lambat laughed when asked about the reports. “There was never a time that the Nigerian delegation was ever unhappy with the ANC centenary as far as accommodation is concerned.”

In fact, everyone was happy and felt the centenary was well organised and a success, he said.

“We were happy with our stay in the Woodlands Wildlife Estate and we thought that we were afforded top class treatment.

“Our delegates enjoyed the food and the accommodation. However, they had to leave as soon as President Jacob Zuma finished delivering his keynote address, because of prior commitments in Abuja.”

He was referring to the fuel strike, which had also resulted in Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan not attending.

Ugandan presidential spokes­person Tamale Mirundi said he had followed up on The Witness inquiry and that reports that Ugandan officials had to buy President Yoweri Museveni a duvet, Nando’s grilled chickens and other essentials, were not true.

Benin ambassador Claude Fassinou also expressed happiness with the treatment received. It was reported that President Thomas Boni of Benin had allegedly “stormed out” of Woodlands, upset with the standard of accommodation.

“The centenary was a truly historical success and our president was happy with everything,” said Fassinou.

The delegation had returned to Pretoria because of a meeting with Zuma the following day.

“We could not sleep in Bloemfontein because we had to go for our meeting with the South African president, it had absolutely nothing to do with the accommodation,” said Fassinou.

Rwandan high commissioner Vincent Karega said: “Buying things like food or even duvets for our head of state is a common practice for Rwandans.”

If the president had a specific diet and a problem sleeping in silk because of allergies, then they would have to provide for him. “Maybe people at the hotel misread the situation. However, we were well accommodated and even the reports about the ANC centenary back home are positive,” he added.

Repeated attempts to get comment from the Namibian embassy were unsuccessful yesterday. It was reported that Namibian officials went out to buy food, plates, glasses and pots to prepare food for President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

National ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said no negative feedback had been received from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, which in terms of protocol was responsible for the heads of state.

Department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the African leaders were looked after and received the standard courtesies extended to heads of state. “We have not received any official complaint from any of them. Some of them stayed over until Monday and had bilateral meetings with President [Jacob] Zuma. This is just a malicious thing and we don’t know where it came from,” he reportedly said.

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