UK trip ‘cancelled because of diary’, Zuma in Nkandla

2014-10-27 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma spent the weekend at Nkandla rather than travelling to the UK.

His chartered jet was ready at Waterkloof airforce base at 10 am on Friday, with crew and catering for a flight to Britain, when the trip was cancelled at the last minute.

Zuma was apparently set to touch down at Durban and visit Nkandla before continuing to the UK. In the event, he spent the whole weekend at Nkandla and was set to return to Waterkloof early yesterday evening.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said at the weekend the trip to London was cancelled due to the “rescheduling” of Zuma’s diary.

Zuma was supposed to attend the innovaBRICS investment conference.

Sister paper City Press reported yesterday that Zuma cancelled the trip because he was not afforded a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and was offered one with Deputy PM Nick Clegg instead.

The “rescheduling” of Zuma’s diary was evidently not for any pressing matters of state, seeing as he spends almost every weekend at Nkandla.

Today, Zuma will attend to party business at ANC headquarters Luthuli House, as he does every Monday. Tomorrow he has a cabinet meeting.

The chartered Boeing 727 that spent the weekend in Durban is used by the airforce while the presidential plane is in Switzerland for maintenance.

The Nkandla visits cost the taxpayer about R330 000 in flight costs alone every weekend. Flight costs for the British visit would have been R10 million.

Maharaj yesterday stonewalled suggestions that Cameron gave Zuma the cold shoulder. It was the second British visit Zuma has cancelled this year, having failed to attend a memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela in London.

Maharaj said Zuma does not have to see Cameron when he visits the UK, although protocol dictates that he would ask to see the premier when visiting another country.

The Brics conference will now be attended by four SA ministers, more than accompanied Zuma on his visit to Russia during which he met President Vladimir Putin.

Maharaj said Zuma had decided they would represent the country as well as he could, but didn’t say why the decision was taken at the last minute.

The event is meant to market SA as an investment destination, and Zuma was asked to attend by BrandSA, in hopes of giving the country an extra boost.

The conference was still listing Zuma as the guest of honour on its webpage yesterday.

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