South African political parties had mixed feelings on Tuesday over the retirement of President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj at the end of April.
The Democratic Alliance wished Maharaj, 79, all the best, but felt he had been abrasive with the media and public during his tenure.
“We just hope the person who steps in… is more open and essentially has an open line with South Africans and the media,” said Mabine Seabe, on behalf of DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane.
Economic Freedom Fighters spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Maharaj was one of the greatest minds of his generation and the party was “eternally grateful” for his contribution to the liberation struggle.
“It is sad that he helped maintain the corrupt leadership of President Jacob Zuma,” he said.
“Before he meets the Creator, we hope he will pen a book to which he will, at least we hope, return from the role that he played and provide further information and analysis that will allow South Africa to rise from the obviously dark chapter of leadership, which he played a part in.”
The EFF wished him well in his retirement.
‘Maybe he will be remembered by that joke’
Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson Blessed Gwala said it was a “good thing” that Maharaj was retiring as he would be able to spend more time with his family.
Gwala said he was not aware of any pressure on Maharaj to vacate his position and said it was entirely his decision to retire.
“He has done his job very well, to do damage control and to try and represent fairly the image of the president,” he said, struggling to hold back laughter.
Asked whether Maharaj’s departure might have anything to do with an April Fool’s joke he sent out about three cabinet appointments, Gwala laughed again and said: “Maybe he will be remembered by that joke”.
The Freedom Front Plus said it was “not impossible” that Maharaj’s departure was linked to his joke, given the timing of his announcement.
It thought it interesting that Maharaj only wanted to retire now.
“For us, he has been put in such predicaments with the actions of the president,” said FF Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald.
“It is quite clear that he cannot handle it anymore. We think it is a poor excuse. We think he was put in an impossible situation.”
A media release sent out by the Presidency after midday on April 1 stated that former minister in the presidency, Essop Pahad, who held that position from 1999 to 2008, had been appointed as the new minister in the presidency responsible for public participation and interface.
It also stated that former minister of defence, Charles Nqakula, was appointed as minister of roads and traffic affairs, and ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa was appointed deputy minister for social cohesion and nation-building.
News24 sent Maharaj an SMS after the statement came out asking: “We just want to confirm the new Cabinet announcements statement… is the statement accurate?”
Maharaj responded: “The new appointees have been informed and can be contacted for further confirmation.”
Pahad later confirmed the statement was indeed an April Fool’s Day prank, saying he was glad Maharaj still had a sense of humour.
The statement caused a frenzy on social media, with news organisations and journalists questioning whether it was a joke.
According to a statement on Wednesday, Maharaj turns 80 this month and had decided “it is time to slow down a bit”.
“We wish to thank Mr Maharaj for this special service to the president and the country and wish him well in his retirement,” Zuma said in the statement.