Zuma to skip UK Mandela memorial service

2014-03-02 09:01
President Jacob Zuma. (Rodger Bosch, AP)

President Jacob Zuma. (Rodger Bosch, AP)

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Johannesburg - In a move seen as a snub in many circles, President Jacob Zuma this weekend chose to attend a Mugabe wedding in Zimbabwe over the Westminster Abbey memorial service for Nelson Mandela on Monday.

According to the Sunday Times, Zuma sent his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe to London in his place and instead paid a visit to a Free State chicken farm on Friday before flying out to attend the wedding of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's daughter Bona.

It is believed that Mandela is the first non-Briton to be honoured in this way at the 1 000-year-old abbey, where generations of royals have been crowned and buried.

About 1 800 people, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Harry are expected to attend the service.

Business Day reported last week that the memorial service had previously been postponed to accommodate Zuma's diary. Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said Zuma's diary was subject to change as this is a busy period for him. Zuma also reportedly failed to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos due to work commitments. 

The Telegraph reported that there had been speculation that Queen Elizabeth II, who grew close to Mandela while he was in power, may attend the service. But after it emerged that Zuma had pulled out, Buckingham Palace informed Westminster Abbey that Prince Harry would attend in her place.

A foreign policy and diplomacy expert told The Telegraph that Zuma's decision to pull out of the memorial service was a blow to UK-South African relations, and the apparent snub could have far-reaching diplomatic implications.

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Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  kgalema motlanthe  |  jacob zuma  |  zimbabwe

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