No room at the inn for JZ

2018-01-28 06:00
President Jacob Zuma arrives in Ethiopia to attend the 30th ordinary session of the assembly of heads of state and governments of the African Union. Picture: Kopano Tlape, GCIS

President Jacob Zuma arrives in Ethiopia to attend the 30th ordinary session of the assembly of heads of state and governments of the African Union. Picture: Kopano Tlape, GCIS

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For the second time in two months President Jacob Zuma had to couch-surf at an ambassadorial residence to attend the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa because there was no room for him at the inn.

Zuma was forced to stay at the home of South Africa’s ambassador to the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ndumiso Ntshinga, because the owner of the Sheraton Hotel, the best hotel in Addis Ababa where presidents usually stay, is in detention.

At the end of November Zuma was forced to stay with the ambassador to the Ivory Coast when Abidjan didn’t have enough room for all the heads of state in town for the EU and AU summit.

The presidency reacted to inquiries yesterday by describing this as “a standard procedure”.

Ethiopia-born Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, who has dual citizenship with Saudi Arabia and is simply known as “the Sheikh” in Ethiopia, where he is one of the country’s biggest investors, was detained in November in a Saudi anticorruption campaign.

Among the Sheikh’s investments is the Sheraton in Addis.

“Usually, he would allocate the villas on the vast Sheraton compound to his friends, who are presidents, to use for the AU summit for free,” a source said.

This year, however, it wasn’t possible because of a corruption crackdown.

Ironically, the theme for this year’s AU summit is Winning the fight against corruption.

Many heads of the AU’s 55 member states in attendance then requested to be accommodated in one of the hotel’s four presidential suites, “but this was obviously not possible”, the source said.

South African presidents have, since the time of former president Nelson Mandela, been allocated a suite (at about R70 000 a night).

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry was, however, requested to intervene in the accommodation crisis and decided to allocate the suites in the order of those serving the longest presidential terms on the continent.

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and former Angolan president Eduardo Dos Santos, both of whom will for the first time not attend this year’s summit, would have been in that club but the list is now topped by Equatorial Guinea’s president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, in power since August 1979.

The one upside to Zuma’s stay at the ambassadorial residence is that it’s closer to the AU headquarters.

The Sheraton was still able to host Zuma’s dinner last night to commemorate the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela.

Many in Addis, however, reckon that the dinner served a double purpose – that of being Zuma’s unofficial farewell.

This AU summit could be his last international engagement if the majority of ANC national executive members, as well as the party’s newly elected president Cyril Ramaphosa, have their way.

Zuma got a warm handshake from Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir as they sat down in their seats next to each other in the first of a number of meetings on the sidelines of the 30th AU summit yesterday.

Zuma didn’t do the usual interview with the SABC after his arrival in Addis on Friday night; the public broadcaster in turn used only a correspondent in Ethiopia to cover the summit instead of its usual team of reporters from home.

A government official said Zuma would use the summit to bid farewell to his peers on the continent, just like he would use the state of the nation address on February 8 for the same purpose.

“He is definitely saying his goodbyes,” the source said.

Zuma is expected to deliver a report to the heads of state summit as the leader in the promotion of the partnerships between the AU and the UN towards enhancing capabilities in peacekeeping operations.

Also, as the head of the Southern African Development Community, he was expected to raise the region’s concerns about the AU chairperson and Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s proposed AU reforms.

Kagame’s proposed reforms are aimed at getting AU member countries to fund most of their own budgets as opposed to running on money from partners outside the continent.

He also proposes changes to enable the administration to run more smoothly.

The region complained that there wasn’t enough consultation.

Read more on:    sadc  |  jacob zuma

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