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Since Mr. Jacob Zuma took up office in June 2009, he has undertaken 40 visits abroad. That averages approximately two visits a month. This fact came to light following a reply from the Presidency to a question which Dr. Corné Mulder, chief spokesperson on International Relations for the Freedom Front Plus, had posed to the President in Parliament.
"The FF Plus is of the opinion that South Africa is an important role-player in an African and international context. The President is however running the risk of, as was the case with his predecessor, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, also being viewed as an absentee President should he continue to undertake on average two visits abroad every month. The fact that Mr. Mbeki had been out of the country at critical times in the internal troubles of the country, not only hugely contributed to his own unpopularity but also to the increasing political instability which South Africa experienced in Mbeki's last years as President. It appears that President Zuma is following the same road when it is taken into consideration that he had undertaken an overseas visit to China in the midst of the public servant strikes which caused instability in the country and cost the country millions of rand," Dr. Mulder said.
"The Presidency could not provide the information as to the total costs of these visits abroad. The President is however accompanied by officials in his office as well as various ministers in his Cabinet. South Africa can not in the current economic circumstances of the country afford to pay huge amounts for state visits abroad. South Africa, and specifically the ANC government under the leadership of President Zuma, should focus on the country's economic recovery and give attention to job creation and social development, rather than developing bilateral and multilateral relations through visits abroad," Dr. Mulder added.
The Presidency refused to provide any information about the composition of the ministers, departmental officials and business people who had accompanied him on these 40 visits abroad. According to the Presidency, the Department of Trade and Industry determines which business people accompany the President on his visits abroad. The FF Plus therefore put a question to the Minister of Trade and Industry to provide this information.