Maharaj says sorry for JZ’s Malawi comment

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj has apologised to those who have taken offence over President Jacob Zuma’s comments on Malawi this week.

“I have received calls from Malawians showing understanding. I have received calls from one or two Malawians being very angry, and after a long discussion they calmed down and said yes, right, let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill,” he said in an interview with PowerFm yesterday.

“So in that context, let me say there are people who take umbrage at that. Let me apologise for that and withdraw it.”

Maharaj said it was “regrettable” that Zuma’s statements had been blown out of proportion

Zuma has come under fire for comments made over e-tolls at the ANC’s manifesto forum at Wits University on Monday.

“We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We are in Johannesburg; this is Johannesburg. It is not some national road in Malwai. No,” he said in recordings.

The presidency sought to clarify Zuma’s comments on Tuesday laying blame on the media for distortion.

Maharaj said he didn’t attack “all media” in his statement.

“I have not attacked all media. I am saying, some media. You are making the mistake of conflicting my views as though I am saying all media.

The SA National Editors’ Forum has said it was unacceptable for the media to be used as scapegoats when comments made by leaders could be confirmed through the existence of recordings.

Over Zuma’s general comments on Africa, Maharaj said: “That is not the way President Zuma thinks; that is not the way he acts; that’s not the way we interact.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has meanwhile called for the focus to be on Zuma’s actions, not his words. She said Zuma played an active role on the continent and that his actions spoke louder than his words.

“We will never look down on any African country. South Africa has close links with Malawi.

“If he’s not at home, he’s usually somewhere on the continent,” she said.

South Africa had a “cordial” relationship with Malawi and was currently aiding the country with financial assistance.

Zuma’s comments on e-tolls referred to the fact that Gauteng’s roads was a part of the transport system at the heart of the economy, said Maharaj.

“If that transport system, through neglect of infrastructure, chokes, the South African economy chokes,” he said.

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