Briefing by President Jacob Zuma to civil society

One could feel the camaraderie and the carnival atmosphere as the revolutionary songs such as “My President” reverberated round the City Hall in Durban (eThekwini).

There was no prize for guessing whose show it was going to be!

In attendance were Sdumo Dlamini, Bishop Davis, Minister Ibrahim Patel, the Executive Mayor of eThekwini, rural women represented by Mrs Ngubane, and the Premier of Kwazulu Natal, Zweli Mkhize as the programme director.

As President Zuma arrived there was a change of atmosphere as the charisma of the first citizen fell on the house.

First to speak was Minister Patel, who reminded everyone that: “We are here at Cop17 to join the governments of the world in reaching consensus on issues of climate change.”

He was followed by Bishop Davis who represented faith-based organisations. He said: “God is not ready yet to destroy this beautiful and magnificent world.”

He also warned that if we are not careful with the environment we will suffer the consequences.

The president of Cosatu said there was a rumour about South Africa breaking ranks with fellow African countries in the negotiations.

He indicated that there was no proof of this. He further said that a just transition should be about defending current jobs, getting more people employed, and creating green jobs.

A few people from the floor were allowed on to the stage to speak.

One speaker deviated from the programme and spoke about the problems in the DRC, insinuating that the South African President was to blame.

The President explained that while there should be tolerance of other people’s views, there should also be a respectful, non-disruptive way of putting a point across.

He was referring to the rumpus that happened in the hall between police and volunteers, and the placard-carrying anarchist brigade.

He further allayed fears about South Africa and the rest of Africa, saying: “No evidence exists of South Africa breaking ranks with Africa.”

He raised the issue of some countries having more power than others.

“Since they have veto powers they have the final say on issues. This world is not equal,” he said.

He told civil society not to generalise; they should point to the culprits and deal with them.

He encouraged civil society to find a way of engaging with those that disagree with them, and to cooperate with those whose aims are similar.

This was an indication that he was in agreement with civil society. He finalised his speech by saying: “The polluters must pay,” to which there was thunderous applause.

Then the songs began, albeit not very powerfully, perhaps because there was contentment after listening to the president, or a rush to avoid the crowds, since the area around the city hall was abuzz with cars, people and the police.

Phew, to have this many police visible every day would keep the prisons empty!


Numsa News No 1, April 2012