Zuma panel no-show, Gordhan rejected as SA stock falls ever lower in Davos

By Alec Hogg

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they tend to do so.

SA President Jacob Zuma was billed as the star attraction for CNBC’s annual Davos highlight, its panel discussion on Africa. Given all that’s happened in the past six weeks, moderator Bronwyn Nielsen wasn’t the only one keen for answers to some pressing questions. She never got the chance.

Zapiro asks whether it is better or worse for South Africa that President Jacob Zuma never showed up for the debate at Davos, Switzerland, More magic on Zapiro.com.
Zapiro asks whether it was better or worse for South Africa that President Jacob Zuma never showed up for the debate at Davos, Switzerland, More magic on Zapiro.com.

Last night Zuma withdrew from the panel, offering his able and recently re-instated Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan instead. But that “downgrade” was unacceptable to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who threatened to withdraw rather than share the stage with Gordhan. So, at the last minute, Rwanda’s third-term seeking President Paul Kagame was drafted into Zuma’s seat, placating the Ethiopian.

To further confuse matters, the Vice President of Nigeria,Yemi Osinbajo, arrived late only joining the discussions a third of the way through, the victim of a late arriving aircraft. Osinbajo was comfortably the most impressive of the otherwise lacklustre panellists, including some adept deflection of questions about how Nigeria will cope with a collapse in State revenues after a plunging oil price.

At least one of us in the audience was delighted to hear how Nigeria’s new Government is committed to fulfilling its pre-election ticket of fighting corruption by introducing highly transparent processes. I was similarly impressed with Osinbajo’s enlightened approach towards aggressively embracing technology to educate the continent’s most populous nation – committing to train 500 000 teachers in the next few months through distance learning and to use mobile phones as learners’ new chalkboards.

Overall, though, the thing that will stay with me is the number of empty seats in the audience (in past years it was standing room only with a lengthy queue outside). It might be that Africa is falling off the investment agenda. Or that those who booked to attend were primarily interested in seeing how Zuma answered the obvious questions.

Zuma’s no-show is the latest in what has been easily the most disappointing World Economic Forum annual meeting of the 13 I’ve attended. Those in the corridors who still pay attention to the country are asking difficult questions that only Zuma can answer like why did he fire Nene? Why appoint backbencher Van Rooyen? Why the obsession for a nuclear deal the country cannot afford? What will be done about the SAA chairman? And what plans are there to stop and hopefully reverse the economic slide.

It didn’t help that Zuma yesterday featured in a lengthy and highly critical article in one of Switzerland’s biggest newspapers – complete with an unflattering picture of him. That might also account for his invisibility thus far, despite heading a sizeable SA Government delegation that’s here.

He is scheduled to host a lunch today at the Kirchner Museum to essentially state the case for investing in the country. Unfortunately I will not be able to provide any feedback on the success or otherwise of that engagement. As with all the other official SA delegation events this year, my invitations appear to have gotten lost. It surely cannot be an attempt by the Zuma Administration to freeze out rather than engage its critics?

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  • Tracer ZA

    ‘Cos the clown knew he’d get owned….

  • Tracer ZA

    Ja, but he’s still pretty frikkin stupid…..

  • Then just say so, we would all understand, why lie?

  • He is a communist of note, why would he rock the boat, even if he is probably the most powerful politician in parliament at the moment. The power is wasted on him due to his affiliation to the SACP, which wags it’s puny tale, the zanc!

  • He does seem to be inserted in a lot of holes, if rumours are to be believed, square or not, lol.

  • Earlymorrningcoffee

    Give credit where credit is due. Zuma was worried about sending the Rand into another slide and decided to send a technocrat who could actually answer economy questions. If anything one should complain about the Ethiopian president who could not bear the idea of sharing the stage with a peasant.

  • Bokkeman

    That too!
    numpty (noun): a stupid or ineffectual person.

  • Re me being nuts – my wife agrees. Re the rest of the guys here, not so. Davos spreads information and knowledge to those who have the power to do good. Even if they kick against it at first…..
    Oh one more thing, no such thing as “general consensus” – it’s either consensus of not…

  • Dobbin

    I have heard it said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing whilst expecting different results. If this holds true then everyone on this forum (including Alec Hogg) is nuts. General consensus appears to indicate that there is something which closely resembles an alien mutant subspecies heading up our beloved country; why are we then surprised to find that each time it defecates mutant poop smells of Hydrogen Sulphide?

  • Macafrican

    Actual in this case Dumbty

  • Jack Klok

    It has always been absurdly untrue.

  • Izz Thatso

    “Nowhere Man”

    He’s a real nowhere man

    Sitting in his nowhere land

    Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

    Doesn’t have a point of view

    Knows not where he’s going to

    He isn’t a bit like you and me

    Nowhere Man, please listen

    You don’t know what you’re dissing

    Nowhere Man, the world is not at your command

    He’s as blind as he can be

    Just sees what he wants to see

    Nowhere Man can you see me at all?

    Nowhere Man, don’t worry

    Take your time, don’t hurry

    Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand

    Doesn’t have a point of view

    Knows not where he’s going to

    He isn’t a bit like you and me

    Nowhere Man, please listen

    You don’t know what you’re dissing

    Nowhere Man, the world is not at your command

    He’s a real Nowhere Man

    Sitting in his nowhere land

    Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

    Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

    Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

  • Lawrence Dahl

    You raise a good point – the ANC seems to have dropped the “a good story to tell” slogan. Maybe even they realised it came across as absurdly untrue.

  • Johan van Papendorp

    Don’t rejoice at his absence too soon. There is still an explanation to come which can be equally damaging. It is one thing to give those who put you in power the middle finger. This is stupid arrogance comparable to Idi Amin.

  • Lawrence Dahl

    That’s funny!

  • Biloko

    There is no good story for Zuma to tell, as all SAfricans know, to their despair ….

  • Biloko

    … and for the shopping, surely!

  • TheHindTit

    I’ve just read the article in the Swiss Tagesanzeiger, it is beyond highly critical.

  • TheHindTit

    There must be 1 million, seventy fifty and 2, one thousand eighty reasons he would give up this opportunity. :))

  • ·
    The solution is
    for Germany to practice Anthroposophy in every sphere of human activity. It
    will spread to the whole of Europe and then Russia and hopefully to the rest of
    the world. It is the new paradigm, an intellectual clairvoyance and
    clairaudience from the Heart. A summary of the new social organics and the
    salvation for humanity.

    Every human wants society to reflect their thinking, feeling and willing –
    individual, social, democracy. So Government should be split into 3
    parliaments. Individual thinking would run art education and culture, where we
    are free as we are most conscious in the realm of thinking. The Economic
    parliament socialism provides the children with whatever thy need to develop
    their gifts so later on the work out of love. When you love your work you are
    free. You become a slave when you dislike your work. The economic realm is the
    only realm we can cooperate in. Money disappears and everybody gets what they

    Democracy, human rights, metabolic system, Equality under the law.

  • Gareth Viljoen

    They just went for the free trip.

  • Tom Ford

    Where’s Cyril?
    Zuma could and should have stayed in Nkandla and just let people who can at least read numbers represent SA economically.

    We had the biggest delegation there and him and his wife cost the tax payer the most. We could probably have sent 100 kids to varsity with the money spent to take Zuma along on a joyride to Europe.

  • sane thought

    Wow, how true. Maybe Gordhan locked him in his room.

  • sane thought

    Zuma had no intention of attending the meeting. He would have been asked difficult questions that he would not have been able to answer without looking stupid. What have we done to deserve him ?

  • Dr Who

    Compare JZ’s no-show to Obama’s recent State of the Nation address dropping of the mic…there’s none.

  • McTSA

    I am still trying to figure out why he would give up a golden opportunity to tell the good story of South Africa. The purpose of being in Davos was to charm and lure investment into SA. This was an ideal opportunity to do so. Or perhaps there was fear that our Ministry of the Presidency would struggle to perform damage control from potential damage to reputation?

  • Malcolm

    Boswell & Wilkie comes to mind

  • McTSA


  • Hans

    And there he goes and does it again at huge taxpayers expense. Did anyone expect anything different from this Zuma guy. Everything he does, everything he says, everything he touches, etc. is just a mess. What an embarrassment is Zuma for the country.

  • The Spark

    Yes he’s just a coward

  • The Spark

    He only went to buy some cheese

  • Zuma isn’t THAT stupid. He knew he would be flayed alive!

  • If ever there was a pristine example of the Ostrich standing with its head in the sand, Jacob Zuma must be it. What a waste of taxpayer’s money! But then, the whole Zuma administration is a waste of taxpayer’s money, so what’s new? The ANC is under attack and they are going to do everything they know how to avoid being seen as the incompetents they are. Expect a volatile 2016. EISH! Tjienie!

  • Johan Kruger

    Zuma is scared he may be asked a number. He is entirely out of his depth.

  • Schalk W. Cronje

    ‘A square peg in a round hole.’

  • Greg Taylor

    The tax payers paid up to R 500 000.00 for Jacob Zuma to attend Davos – when he is there he falls asleep in his chair and doesn’t even appear at the Africa’s Next Challenge debate? Eish!

  • Thomas Edison

    Al the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Hupmty together again…….

  • Gary Bing

    Zuma must fall immediately