After he was publicly heckled by workers on Monday at Cosatu’s main May Day rally in Bloemfontein, Free State, President Jacob Zuma says protests and debates are part of the culture of democracy.
He was speaking during a walkabout at the World Economic Forum meeting on Africa in Durban, where he was asked directly by reporters if he felt rejected by workers, Fin24 reported.
Zuma said in dictatorships there would be an angry president ordering police to arrest dissidents, saying he was happy South Africa had matured democratically.
He said the people who booed him at the rally, unlike in dictatorships, would not be arrested or harassed.
“I’ve been hearing comments all over, but the problem is people don’t understand what democracy is about. You’ll agree with me that in the countries of dictators there are no protests or booing – all these things are part of the culture of democracy.
“Unfortunately, people misread this. In a political democracy, people engage heads of state. They criticise heads of state for [their] views because they are expressing themselves freely,” Zuma was quoted as saying.
He also said if he were a journalist, he would write columns educating people about democracy.
“… In a country where there’s no democracy, there will be an angry president charging the police to arrest these people.
“But democracy says: let these people express themselves. Governments are in place democratically and removed democratically through the vote.”