School children in SA take Pres Zuma to task


JF-Expert Member
Oct 30, 2010
Twenty-six primary school children, all in uniform, filed into the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria on Thursday to deliver a book of letters they had penned to him, titled "Children's letters to President Zuma".

Sitting comfortably with the children on chairs and on the floor around him, Zuma could not help but grin broadly as Taliah Day, 11, from Skuilkrans Primary in Pretoria, read her poem to him. "Yo ur smile bright, day and night, I think of you. What are you like? Do you like to hike?"

Also clearly happy to address the president was Kgothatso Mathibe, 11, from Boikanyo primary in Ga-Rankuwa, who told him what she expected of him. "I kindly greet you, your highness... This country you are leading is great, rich, nice, kind and mostly pure beauty," she read. "So be a man and manage it wisely... And don't be sad because your birthday is not as popular as Nelson Mandela's, just calm down and smile."

Mathibe managed to finish reading her letter even though Zuma, his staff and journalists erupted into laughter at what she seemed to consider a very serious comment.

Many of the 165 children from 11 schools across the country who contributed to the book, expressed frustration and anger at the country's socio-economic status. Issues ranged from high levels of crime, corruption and poverty, to pollution and rhino killings.

Ntanda Ndlovu, 13, wrote: "I think you are a great president sometimes, but there are a lot of things you should change, like when you said that you 'promise to build houses for the poor' but you have not done that, so by not doing that you then set a bad example and that didn't make me happy."

Some, like Jennifer Verdoes, offered solutions to problems.
"I do not like complaining, but I don't think it's right to change the names of places when you can use the money to build better houses for those who don't have proper homes."

In a lengthy letter, Charisa Mujuru, 12, castigates Zuma for not making good on a promise that he would remove begging children from the street. "You have been president for more than a year now and that is enough time to remove all street kids and find a way to help them. South African counts on you not Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt!"

Gawie Roux, 10, from De Aar in the Northern Cape wrote: "You always go on holiday overseas and you are on TV a lot and you always dress smart. My dad says he would also want to be a president."

Children praised Zuma for leading the country in hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
"I thought the World Cup would never be hosted by South Africa but you and your helpers did a very good job. I am proud of you, really proud," wrote Ofentse Kola, 11.

However Malie Engelbrecht, 13, said since, and because of the World Cup, "things are starting to fall apart again".
The editor of the book, Mukanda Mabonsa Mulemfo, said it was the first published book of its kind for a sitting South African president.
"There is no doubt that these views represent those of other children."

Zuma told the children, who were initially hanging on his every word, but then began to lose interest, that he was very happy to hear their heartfelt words. "Generally, I think young people don't know what is happening in their country... I tell them I was once a young person and I thought," he said. Zuma assured the pupils he would make sure he read every one of the letters and responded to some of them personally.

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