Former South African President, Jacob Zuma’s planned visit to Bulawayo did not materialise after some members of his security team reportedly failed to secure seats in the South African Airlink flight to Bulawayo.
Zuma was expected to land in Bulawayo Friday at 12 noon from Johannesburg. He was a guest of honour at the ongoing United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) regional conference at Khumalo Hotel.
The liberation stalwart was also expected to visit the late national hero Dumiso Dabengwas widow, Zodwa and family at the family home in Fourwinds to pay his respects.
Confirming the development at the Dabengwa residence, Vukile Mathabela from the office of the former president, said Zuma’s entourage encountered challenges at the airport as the commercial flight did not have enough space.
“As you know Zuma was expected to be a guest at the UCCA church. He’s not only just a guest but is a member of the church too. So he was coming here in his capacity, both as a church member and guest speaker.
However, we had one challenge that when they were supposed to leave South Africa, the security detail could not have enough space in the flight, therefore Zuma ended up not coming,” he said.
Mathabela noted that Zuma had been looking forward to the Bulawayo trip but would make amends both to the church and the Dabengwa family.
“We apologise but we are going to make a video clip that would be played in the UCCA church where Zuma personally would apologise and explain what really happened. But he was looking forward, some of us had prepared speeches and everything else. He was looking forward to be part of the whole conference of the UCCA,” he said.
Zuma’s assistant was unsure if the former president would still attend the church conference.
“Well, the service was to last until Sunday so we can’t commit to anything up until we are sure whether it’s possible for him to come Sunday. But if not possible, we will communicate although today and tomorrow is out. We don’t know if it’s due to the long (holiday) weekend, as to why there’s an issue with the flight,” Mathabela said.
As for paying his respects to the Dabengwa’s, he added, “we wanted to do a kill two birds with one stone, we wanted to be here. I have my colleagues from the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation and we have to do sit down with them. The foundation will make an announcement in due course to say when Zuma can come.”
Mathabela noted that since Zuma was a former president, he was no longer privy to certain privileges such as the presidential jet. “He’s just a citizen, there’s no presidential jet and the plane is full so like everyone else, he must queue.
This is not the first time, as we have even missed domestic flights before. The former president no longer has privileges of flying on state jets. So he just becomes a normal citizen otherwise we would be in trouble with other passenger should they have been taken off the flight,” he said.
Dabengwa and Zumas relationship dates back to the days of the liberation struggle when, Zapus military wing, ZPRA fought alongside African National Congress military wing Umkhonto weSizwe.
Zuma was initially scheduled to attend Dabengwa`s burial in June together with another former South African president, Thabo Mbeki but they did not make it.