It might have been an emotional day as some of the fired ministers cleared their desks and ventured into the unknown, but for President Jacob Zuma it was business as usual.
The president today officially opened the Mbizana rural enterprise development hub in Mbizana, Eastern Cape and received a hero’s welcome from the thousands who had braved the sunny weather.
He was on a charm offensive, smiling and waving to the crowd of mostly ANC supporters in party regalia.
Zuma – who shocked the nation on Thursday night when he fired the well-respected Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, and other ministers – looked relaxed for a man many thought had done the unthinkable.
His usual giggling and laughter could be heard during a tour of the facility at Dyifani, including maize fields, before he visited a milling plant.
Zuma arrived in a military helicopter two hours after nine of his black SUV protection vehicles had already arrived at the venue.
Flanked by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Bheki Cele, Small Businesses’ Lindiwe Zulu, Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Eastern Cape MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Mlibo Qoboshiyane and Premier Phumulo Masualle, the president sang his trademark song, Awulethe umshini wam, before his address.
The large marquee went into raptures as the crowds joined the president in the song.
During his address the president stuck to the script and did not mention any word of his Cabinet reshuffle that happed last night.
“We are happy to meet in Mbizana, the hometown of the longest serving ANC President, the late uTata Oliver Reginald Tambo.
“As you know, we have declared this year as ‘The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action Together Moving South Africa Forward’ and it is therefore fitting that we launch a rural enterprise development hub here today. We are celebrating the life of OR Tambo who worked for a better life for all including the people of Mbizana and surroundings,” Zuma said.
Zuma also paid tribute to late struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada who died earlier this week.
“At the beginning of this week, we lost one of the big stalwarts of our movement, ‘Isithwalandwe’ Comrade Ahmed Kathrada. May his revolutionary soul rest in peace! His spirit will always be with us,” he said.
He said he was pleased with the creation of the hub, as one of government’s efforts to stimulate growth through agriculture and agro-processing and was positive the development will alleviate poverty and address low levels of development in the district of Alfred Nzo.
“The establishment of the hub will thus stimulate local economic development as well as the investment drive to expand beyond agriculture and traditional subsistence farming.
“Our people must make a living from the land, and must also not go hungry when they can produce food from the land. We are thus happy with the partnerships between the local municipality and other stakeholders to embark on massive grain production with the aim of addressing high level of poverty in the area,” he said.
The Mbizana hub is one of three others, in Mqanduli in the King Sabatha Dalindyebo Municipality, Ncora at Intsika Yethu Municipality and Lady Frere in Emalahleni Municipality. The total amount invested by the government in the hubs over the past three years is R190 million.
“Of the four existing hubs, this hub we are launching today leads the pack in terms of investment as government has invested R53 million for the state-of-the-art structure.
It is with great pleasure to note that the communities where the hubs have been established, have responded actively to the clarion call that government has been making over time for our people to establish cooperatives, Zuma said.