COSATU, the President and Shilowa
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has called on all South Africans to accept the unconditional apology by President Jacob Zuma, which he issued on Saturday 6 February 2010. He has humbly admitted that he erred and asked for our forgiveness.
We are sure that the overwhelming majority, while disapproving of the conduct for which he has apologised, will want to put this unfortunate incident behind us, as we await the President's State of the National Address on Thursday and recommit ourselves to principles of the HIV/Aids prevention campaign.
Even many opposition politicians have demonstrated statesmanship and humanity by accepting the apology. The glaring exception however is Congress of the People (COPE) Deputy President Mbhazima Shilowa, who has hypocritically demanded that President Zuma resign over the affair.
He says: "We are saying that you cannot make the same mistake over and over and apologise. When he came back from abroad he basically said look yes I had a relationship with Sonono and this is my child so what business do you have with it? Please opposition parties and everybody back off. The ANC said the same thing but, now because the State of the Nation Address is nearing and they do not want him to address the nation with this thing hanging, they would then issue an apology on his behalf."
What is astonishing about this statement is that Mbhazima Shilowa has himself fathered two children, Marvin and Nhlamulo, and for nearly 20 years failed to give Nhlamulo any support and only even acknowledged his existence after his paternity has been biologically proved. Yet they still had to go to court to demand maintenance payments!
The elder son, Marvin, sued his father for support in 2007 seeking maintenance from him so that he could return to his law studies at the University of Limpopo. An out-of court settlement was reached, enabling Marvin to return to his law studies, assisted by a study bursary handed to him by the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema.
The younger son, Nhlamulo, also went to court to force his father to pay maintenance and had to attend court five times. He wanted to upgrade his matric qualifications so that he could enrol for business or media studies at Wits University.
It is sheer hypocrisy for the COPE leader to demand the President's resignation for the mistake he has committed. At least the President owned up to his mistake, acknowledged his paternity and paid damages.
Shilowa on the other hand needed a court action to acknowledge his own blood, 20 years after impregnating his son's mother. Even after the paternity had been proved, he still needed a court to compel him to support the child.
Will Shilowa practice what he preaches, by declining any nominations for positions in COPE at their forthcoming Congress, or was his outburst just another example of the demagogic rhetoric we have come to expect from COPE?
Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, February 8 2010
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