Zuma Jr: I believe I can fly

2013-04-28 10:00

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Edward Zuma tells Paddy Harper he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place: Stay idle, and he’s a spoiled brat. Become an aviation guru, and he’s trading on his father’s famous surname

President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward denies using his father’s name to ease his entry into South Africa’s low-cost airline market.

Zuma told City Press in Durban on Friday that his father only found out about his involvement in Blockbuster, the local company partnering with fastjet, “in the papers’’ after the deal was done.

Fastjet announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Blockbuster, a South African company with which Zuma is “associated”.

This memo will see fastjet, from the end of May, running low-cost flights using a licence agreement with existing air-charter company Federal Airlines.

The new airline will be 75% owned by Blockbuster, which involves Zuma, businessman Yusuf Kajee and others.

Zuma, who has no background in aviation, said his role in the deal is as a “consultant” and “adviser” to the team, which has been “in the middle” of the deal.

In an interview with Moneyweb this week, fastjet chief executive Ed Winter said: “Edward is the eldest son of Jacob Zuma and he is a lawyer. He is the son of a politician, but he is not involved in politics. He is a businessman and he is very interested in aviation.”

Zuma said he was still completing his law degree and that Winter meant that he had “a legal background”.

“This is no train smash.”

Many South Africans will know Zuma because of an unpaid wedding planner’s bill worth R1.5 million.

He has also made headlines for defaulting on a R5 million loan from the state-owned Ithala Development Finance Corporation.

He is Zuma’s son from a relationship with Minah Shongwe, sister of Judge Jeremiah Shongwe, some 34 years ago.

But unsurprisingly perhaps, he’d rather talk about his new business venture. And he hinted at a closer involvement some time soon.

“As we speak, I am neither a director nor shareholder of Blockbuster. I am still to take that decision. I will consult extensively first.

“My father...must have heard and seen it for the first time in the papers. The people who own fastjet only got to meet me for the first time the day before (the deal was made public). I never met the guys. We were doing things through consultants.

“I met them the other day for the first time in Joburg. It tells you they never went into this thing because Zuma’s son is there. They are doing it as businesspeople who want to work in South Africa with other businesspeople.

“Even if they knew... then? My problem is this: if you do nothing, they will say, ‘He’s a spoilt brat who lives on a silver plate waiting for a handout.’ If you work hard, ‘He’s getting everything because he’s Zuma’s son.’ What is it that we must do? We have a life to live. We have bills to pay. What is it that we must do?”

His previous financial woes don’t impact on his ability to do business, Zuma insists.

“Which citizen doesn’t have financial problems? Especially as a self-employed person, you can never depend on what your financial prospects are. I have never denied that. It’s a matter that’s being dealt with. I do not think it had any impact on this deal. We are dealing with people who know what they want. They cannot be taken aback by petty issues like that.

“I’m sure you have a bond. At some point you default on paying your bond. You shouldn’t make a big issue out of that. It’s a way of life. Maybe I can say one failed to control his or her budget properly. It’s a normal thing, which one has to try to rectify. I don’t know what the fuss is all about.”

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