Police officers and vendors were left high and dry on Friday with the sudden decision to cancel the National Prayer Day event in Durban.
President Jacob Zuma had been set down to officiate at the National Day of Prayer and Launch of Africa Month event to be held at Kings Park Rugby Stadium, but the event was cancelled at very short notice.
While a short statement announcing the cancellation of the event was posted on the Presidency’s website, it appears not everyone was told.
By 10am, when it was common knowledge that the event had been cancelled, a vehicle from the Port Shepstone Public Order Policing Unit could still be seen at the stadium.
A police officer in the bakkie, who declined to be named, said that he had found out only at about 8am that it had been cancelled. “I found out when I came on duty. I am just waiting now to see if anything happens, but it has been quiet. Nobody except the traders came.”
Vendors could be seen packing up their stands.
“Zuma is killing us for free,” Nomusa Xaba said angrily.
She questioned who would pay for the taxi to take her back home with her wares that she had not sold. It was only at 7.30am, several hours after she had set up her stall, that she first learnt from security guards that the event might not happen.
“He’s not cancelled it. He’s postponed it, he is educated now,” she said angrily. “Zuma has cancelled the prayer meeting. He’s going to cancel his own death.”
Another vender who was packing up her fish, questioned what she would do with her unsold stock.
Zodwa Mthembu, who had foregone trading at Warwick Triangle to trade outside the stadium in anticipation of the big crowds that had been expected to turn out for National Prayer Day, said she had set up outside the stadium at 5am.
She was told by a police officer at about 8am that the event had been cancelled.
“Zuma is taking us for granted. We spent so much on our stocks. And now?”
Throughout Durban banners still displayed that the prayer day was taking place and the largest banner was splayed out over the Tollbridge over the N3 as motorists enter the city.
The statement issued by presidential spokesman Bongani Majola and displayed on the Presidency’s website simply read: “The National Day of Prayer that was to take place at Absa Stadium today, Friday 29 April 2016, has been postponed to a later date.”
“The National Day of Prayer and Launch of Africa Month was to be addressed by President Jacob Zuma with religious leaders officiating as well in leading prayers for unity, peace, the rain, successful local government elections and peaceful co-existence.
“The new date will be announced in due course.”
No reason for the cancellation was given.