UK media tones down on Zuma

2010-03-04 17:07
Johannesburg - Some British media had by Thursday toned down their controversial coverage of President Jacob Zuma's first UK state visit, but instead turned on him for breaches of protocol and royal etiquette.

At the same time, many South African newspapers, often critical of his presidency and his past, rallied around Zuma in their editorials.

The Daily Mail ran an article by Stephen Robinson on Tuesday which called Zuma a "sex-obsessed bigot" and a "vile buffoon" with accompanying pictures of him in traditional Zulu attire. The usually guarded Zuma broke his silence on this and other reports on his polygamy, by complaining he had never disparaged anyone else's culture.

Without commenting directly on Robinson's piece, or apologising, the Daily Mail accused Zuma of an "attack" that had "wrecked his advisers' attempts to coach him about the finer points of royal etiquette" when he commented on the articles.

With continued rumblings on breaches of royal etiquette, and mention of an "unusual double handshake", the publication complained that the men in the Zuma entourage had wandered around Buckingham Palace wearing "football-style scarves in the South African colours over their suits, the women chatted noisily on their mobile phones and used them to take pictures of the furnishings".

Important developing country

The Guardian online said Zuma's arriving in "sensible attire" of dark suit and shoes was him showing that he was a "potent figure on the international stage", in spite of his controversies.

It went on to describe him as head of one of the most important developing countries in the world, the pre-eminent regional powerbroker, and a man who could help solve Britain's quandary over Zimbabwe.

In an article headlined "Zuma visit: 'Thanks for the show, cultural imperialists!'", the UK Independent complained of Zuma's "scathing attack on the British" and said: "Rather than stick to the protocols of a state visit (pomp, splendour and no criticism of either the host or visiting nation) the South African President clearly felt compelled to speak out against what he perceived to be British cultural snobbery".

However, Zuma was defended from an unexpected quarter as a number of newspaper editors in SA rallied behind him.

Business Day's Peter Bruce's found it "appalling" to watch Zuma's reception from sections of the British media.

"The British body politic is without peer when it comes to sex scandals and moral or financial hypocrisy and the sight of leading British newspapers having a go at Zuma for his lapses of virtue is sickening."

Bruce said life in SA under Zuma was "trust us, a lot better than in the UK" and that even if he was imperfect or may be a lousy leader, "he's our lousy leader. We'll deal with him. When UK politicians visit here we'll be sure to treat them with respect."

Erroneous assumption

The Star wrote that SA should not have been surprised by the "viciousness of the attack from those sections of the British press that either make their living in the gutter, or are of such a right-wing persuasion that they have been desperate to see South Africa fail".

The newspaper advised Zuma to ignore the "bigots of the sex-obsessed UK tabloids".

The Sowetan called the reports "cultural chauvinism" and said that while the British and the rest of the world could analyse and criticise anyone "they should rid themselves of the erroneous assumption that they are still a colonial power whose standards and ways are to be accepted as gospel".

But The Times and The Citizen felt Zuma should have taken a different approach to the articles.

The Times said: "You've got to feel for Jacob Zuma", but felt his retort may have soured relations, blaming his media advisors for not handling it better while The Citizen said: "Waving the race card at British journalists won't help".

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  politics


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