The event was originally scheduled to take place on 11 February this year to coincide with the 24th anniversary of Madiba's release from prison. The Presidency requested the date to be changed to accommodate President Zuma, and yet he still did not attend!
While South Africa was represented with dignity by the Deputy President, the attendance of the President would not only have demonstrated our understanding of the protocol involved, but would again have sent a strong message to the world that former President Mandela was and remains our greatest national treasure and continues to be the focus of our affection and respect.
Regrettably, an occasion has been lost for the country's leader to once more honour the memory of Nelson Mandela, watched by millions around the world. This diplomatic gaffe will do little to redeem President Zuma's already weakening image. [Applause.]