The South African presidency has denied reports that President Jacob Zuma has cancelled his trip to Britain after he was refused an audience with British prime minister David Cameron.
Calling the report mischievous, presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said it was not compulsory for Zuma to meet Cameron. It has been reported that Zuma pulled out of a high-level gathering because he was only offered an audience with Cameron’s deputy Nick Clegg. Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj has dismissed the claim.
“The reports suggesting that President Zuma cancelled the visit because he was refused an audience with British Prime Minister David Cameron are incorrect and mischievous.
“The President had been planning to attend this year’s conference at Brand SA’s request and that of the organisers but will no longer attend. He is of the view that the Ministers will represent the country well as they have done each year. South Africa and the United Kingdom have extensive trade and economic relations which continue to strengthen, despite the global economic challenges.”
Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe will now lead the South African delegation of ministers to London for the innovaBRICS conference.
The purpose of the visit to London was to open the innovaBRICS conference and to promote South Africa as an investment destination. The conference is part-sponsored by the South African government through BrandSA.
Maharaj added that the presidency wishes to clarify that it was not compulsory for Zuma to meet the British Prime Minister Mr David Cameron.
“It was not a South Africa-UK bilateral visit which necessitates an engagement at a government level. When Heads of State and government undertake a visit of this nature it is not a necessity to see the host head of state or government,” elaborates Maharaj.
This was the second time this year that Zuma had cancelled a visit to the UK at short notice.
Radebe will be accompanied by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene, and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
South Africa’s participation in the conference will be within the context of promoting the country as a prime business destination.
Zuma was due to give the keynote address during the conference outlining South Africa’s role in BRICS and on the African continent in light of South Africa’s National Development Plan and Vision 2063, amongst others.
This was the second time this year that Zuma had cancelled a visit to the UK at short notice. In February, he was to have attended a memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela at Westminster Abbey. He went to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s daughter’s wedding instead.