Zille: What is Zuma afraid of?

2008-06-26 00:00

Cape Town — What is ANC leader Jacob Zuma afraid of? This was the question posed yesterday by DA leader Helen Zille after Zuma refused to accept a challenge to a public debate with her on 10 key issues affecting South Africa.

Zuma told the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) on Wednesday that Zille is trying to use him to “elevate herself” by challenging him to a debate.

Zille challenged Zuma to debate 10 key issues, including his position on the future of the Scorpions, the arms deal, HIV/Aids and the supremacy of the Constitution.

But, addressing a meeting with the MJC in Athlone, Cape Town, Zuma said that, while he encourages open debate in a democracy, he will not allow Zille to further her political agenda through a debate with him.

“Why should I engage in a debate with her? Zille is somebody who is trying to elevate [herself] ... I fear no-one in any debate, but I’m a politician — people can’t think they can use me to elevate themselves,” Zuma was reported as saying.

Zille said it is hard to escape the impression that Zuma does not have the courage to face her in a public forum. “He said earlier in the year that he was willing to debate anything, with anyone, at any time. Yet he ignored my challenge for a debate on the future of the Scorpions and he is refusing to debate me now.

“By turning down my challenge for a public debate, Jacob Zuma is denying the people of South Africa the opportunity to see the leaders of the two largest parties go head-to-head on the key issues facing our country.”

Zille said public debates are part and parcel of a healthy democracy. “If Jacob Zuma is to be South Africa’s next president, he will need to prove that he is capable of setting out and defending his policies. A debate with me would be the perfect opportunity for him to do so.”

Zille repeated her challenge to Zuma for a public debate.

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