Zuma slams British critics
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma, currently on a state visit to Britain, has lashed out his British critics, accusing them of still considering themselves superior to "barbaric" Africans, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Zuma, a polygamist, made the remarks in an interview with The Star newspaper before arriving in London on Tuesday on his first official visit since becoming president in May last year.
"When the British came to our country, they said everything we are doing was barbaric, was wrong, inferior in whatever way. Bear in mind that I'm a freedom fighter and I fought to free myself, also for my culture to be respected," the former anti-apartheid fighter and ANC leader told the paper.
In the run-up to his visit, Zuma's controversial lifestyle had been highlighted by some of the British media. Much of the coverage focused on recent revelations that the president fathered a child out of wedlock last year with a woman that is neither one of his three wives, nor his fiancée.
The affair caused a scandal in South Africa, where it raised questions about Zuma's fitness to lead and reignited a debate over the acceptability of polygamy.
London's Guardian newspaper wondered whether Zuma's "colourful CV" would discomfit the queen but concluded that, "given the range of distinctly ropey state visitors she has greeted during her 58 years on the throne it seems unlikely."
The Daily Mail described Zuma as "a buffoon" and "a sex-obsessed bigot" and claimed he had 35 children.
The official number given by Zuma's office is 20.
"The British have done that before (look down on Africans), as they colonised us, and they continue to do this, and it's an unfortunate thing," Zuma said, adding: "If people want an engagement, I'm sure we will engage on that issue."
Zuma's visit to Britain, where he will be seeking to reassure investors that his centre-left administration is not undertaking any radical policy shifts, is his first to a major power.
On Wednesday, Zuma and Thobeka Madiba Zuma, the third of his three wives, were due to meet Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.