Saturday, May 09, 2009


By Joseph Winter BBC News, Pretoria

Just after Jacob Zuma arrived at the Union Buildings to be inaugurated as South Africa's president, a crack of thunder boomed out from the heavens.
But the torrential downpour that followed failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who have come to attend the event - and the free open-air concert afterwards.
"When it rains before a big event, there is a Zulu saying, Ilamagu Livumile , which means, 'The ancestors have given their blessing'," Nankhithe Mapheele told the BBC as she watched the festivities while sheltering under an umbrella in the capital, Pretoria.
The crowds had started to gather from 0400, walking down Pretoria's traffic-free streets in the dark, singing songs praising their hero, Mr Zuma.
Others had driven through the night from their home province of KwaZulu-Natal to attend the event.
As the skies opened, some sought shelter under the trees in the lawns of the Union Buildings.
But others continued to sing and dance in the rain.
One young man even managed to continue dancing while holding a fold-up director's chair over his head to protect himself from the deluge.
On the massive specially-erected open-air stage, the cultural dancers also continued to perform.
"We are rejoicing. He's the people's leader," said Nkompela Xolile.
"He knows the poor of this country, those who live in rural areas. And he will help them."
One of the many songs praising South Africa's new leader goes: "My mother was a kitchen girl, My father was a garden boy, That's why I'm president."
"I didn't sleep last night, I was so excited," said Sophie Zigalala, while her young daughter danced on the grass.
"If he is president, people will find a job. The people are suffering."

And with the economy entering its first recession since the end of apartheid in 1994, the numbers of the poor needing help will grow.
Others admire Mr Zuma for showing tremendous character during his long struggle against charges of corruption and rape, which his supporters insist were part of a political conspiracy.
He was acquitted of the rape charges, while the corruption charges, first laid four years ago, have been dropped by state prosecutors.
"He is a strong person. He has never backed down," said Kewin Mokwena, a student.
"I've been waiting for this day for a very long time. That's why I came so early."
He also said he was looking forward to seeing Mr Zuma dance.
At 67, the new president's rendition of his trademark "Umshini wami" (Bring Me My Machine-Gun) still wows the crowds.
"I have seen him dance many times on television but now I want to see him in the flesh," Mr Mokwena said.
The concert is due to last all day, with more parties lasting long into the night.
Local radio stations have been advertising the "Inauguration after-party" to be held in a local nightclub.



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