It will be an inauguration unlike any other. When Jacob Zuma formally becomes president of South Africa today, he will sing and dance in front of visiting heads of state — and possibly have three first ladies at his side.
Zuma, a Zulu and polygamist whose African National Congress (ANC) retained power in last month’s general election, has invited his wives, Sizakele Khumalo, Nompumelelo Ntuli and Thobeka Mabhija, to join him at the 75 million rand (US$8.9 million) showpiece event at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the South African newspaper the Star said yesterday. A spokesman for the ANC described the reports as “speculation.”
Guests will include Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Reverend Jesse Jackson from the US. The UK will be represented by the Foreign Office minister for Africa, Lord Malloch-Brown, while the administration of US President Barack Obama will send a trade representative, Ron Kirk.
There will be a 21-gun salute after Zuma takes his oath of office. He will then break from protocol after his inaugural address by moving down and singing to the crowds, possibly a rendition of his signature tune, Bring Me My Machine Gun.
“The masses want to see him sing,” said Brian Sokutu, a spokesman for the ANC. “He will make the formal inauguration speech, then there will be a moment when he comes down to the lawn to speak to the masses. He will greet them, he will sing, he will thank them for their contribution to constitutional democracy.”
Sokutu denied that the show would cause embarrassment on the world stage.
“This is South Africa, it’s different here. When Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, he had his traditional long shirt, the Madiba shirt. Now everyone knows the Madiba dance,” Sokutu said.