Frosty UK reception for Zuma

2010-03-02 13:02

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's recent controversies have followed him to the UK, with scene setters on his state visit revisiting his polygamy and his court travails.

"His country's first openly-polygamous President, Mr Zuma will be received with the usual pomp by the Queen and Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a three-day visit likely to be dominated by interest in his personal life and the continuing crisis in Zimbabwe," wrote the Independent's online edition.

Describing him as "exuberant" with a "colourful CV", and "shrewd", the Guardian online leapt straight into his battle with rape and corruption charges, his rejection of calls by the ANC Youth League for nationalisation, and moved swiftly on to which wife he had chosen to accompany him - Thobeka Madiba - for the visit.

More Zuma children

The Independent wrote that the "distinctly monogamous" monarch was unlikely to be fazed by the visit "given the range of distinctly ropey state visitors she has greeted during her 58 years on the throne".

"The Queen is long past being shocked by the expedient dictates of foreign policy and commercial interests."

The rightwing Daily Mail chose to headline their article: "Jacob Zuma is a sex-obsessed bigot with four wives and 35 children. So why is Britain fawning over this vile buffoon?"

With a picture of Zuma in traditional attire at his wedding to Madiba, it wrote that he had paid "a sort of tribal deposit on a future bride" to the families of at least two more potential wives.

They also claim to have been told of twins he had with a Ukrainian woman.

'Protocol nightmare'

The article speculated on what the guests would have to talk about with Zuma, "protocol nightmare" and the small talk around the canapé table.

His song "Bring me my machine gun" got a mention, and they wrote: "And for that matter, would Harriet Harman [Labour MP], assiduously promoting her equality agenda as the (UK) General Election nears, wish to discuss gender issues with a man who, when charged with rape in 2005, protested in court that the alleged victim was wearing an extremely short skirt."

Not stopping there, the Mail said it was "becoming ever more evident that South Africa is being turned into an organised kleptocracy".

"With timing that seems suspiciously fortunate given the looming state visit, the government this month announced a deal with British Aerospace to end investigations into whether bribes were paid in several recent contracts."

Last year Zuma won a damages claim against the UK Guardian for writing that he was guilty of rape, corruption and bribery when in fact he was acquitted of rape and the other charges were abandoned.

South African cartoonist Zapiro, for The Times locally, drew him and the queen in a carriage with her crown and his showerhead silhouetted. The queen emitted an "eek" from the carriage and her footman quipped: "They warned us about this chap".

'Former goatherder'

The Daily Mirror called him a "former goatherder" who "defends his rights to several Mrs Zumas" and the Financial Times wrote: "It will no doubt prove tempting for some British commentators to depict Jacob Zuma's state visit to the UK this week as a comic opera," then moving on to the sensible stuff of politics and economics and Zuma's entry on to the international stage.

"When he came to London just over two years ago, at the height of his battle for the ANC leadership, only a few bankers would see him. He roamed central London one evening all but barred even from the South African high commission in Trafalgar Square.

"Now he returns as the most powerful man in sub-Saharan Africa to all the pomp that Britain can offer.

"After a year's honeymoon, however, western investors are starting to fret. They want him to go beyond equivocating and mollifying the feuding powerbrokers of his rowdy alliance."