Durban – "South Africans cannot believe that a man who never went to school is the President and that is the reason why he must be attacked 24/7…" President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.
Speaking in his capacity as the patron of the Jacob Zuma Foundation at the Dube House official residence in Morningside, where he was bidding farewell to 19 students going to study at the American University of Nigeria, in Nigeria, Zuma said being poor was one of the reasons why he decided to start the foundation.
"I suffered because I never went to school and that is the reason why I decided to educate myself... There are people whose business is to say that we cannot have a man who never went to school running a country.
“We must rubbish him 24/7... No one has ever said it is a miracle for this man to have become president and wrote a column about it."
Zuma said if he listened to his critics he would have "that disease white people call stress but I don’t have it because I know better".
He said one of the most painful things was that when someone came from a poor background, people tended to undermine that person even when they were no longer poor.
"They can't believe that you come from a poor background and that you have managed to make something of yourself and so they try to make a laughing stock out of you.
"They try to make you feel like you are not capable and make you feel like you don't know what you are doing and [you are] just useless.
"It is even more painful when it comes from those who occupy strategic positions in society... Those who are given an opportunity to enlighten society but they do the opposite.
"If you come from a poor family, by nature, you are automatically placed and labelled according to different social classes," he said.
Zuma said he did not regret sharing that he did not have a formal education with the country.
'No media attacks white people'
"We are so unfair on ourselves, especially black people. There is no media that attacks white people... There was one person who was given a position with just a matric to act as a CEO, and it was not a big deal. If it was a black person, there would have been a lot of noise."
Zuma said South Africans blamed everything on him. "If a person loses their shoelaces in South Africa, they say it is Zuma and I love it."
He told the students to work hard to improve their circumstances.
Poverty and inequality gave him sleepless nights, he said. "Poverty, inequality and unemployment is man-made and not made by God, we must resolve it properly."
He told the students to be determined to succeed so that they could come back and participate in the economy.