Zuma: Protests, booing and debates part of democracy

President Jacob Zuma has given his first public reaction to being booed at Cosatu’s May Day rally in Bloemfontein.

President Jacob Zuma addressing Freedom Day celebrations in Manguzi on 27 April 2017. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has given his first public reaction to being booed at the Congress of South African Trade Union’s May Day rally in Bloemfontein, saying that in dictatorships there would be no protests and no booing.

ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete and provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala were also booed in KwaZulu-Natal, while ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte had a tough time addressing workers in Limpopo.

The president says that protests and debates are part of the culture of democracy.

He's been speaking at the World Economic Forum Africa meeting in Durban.

Zuma was asked directly if he felt rejected by workers on Monday.

“Well, well, well. I have been hearing comments all over. The problem is people have not understood what a democracy is all about.”

He says people are misunderstanding democracy.

“Protests, booing and debates are part of the culture of a democracy. Unfortunately, people misunderstand and misread this.”

Zuma also says this proves that South Africa is a democracy, because the people who booed him won't be arrested or harassed.

WATCH: Anti-Zuma protest halts Cosatu’s May Day rally

The president says the fact he was booed by Cosatu members at the federation's May Day Rally proves South Africa is not a dictator.

He also says he's not worried about the political situation and that recent developments show the country's democracy is maturing.

President Zuma says what happened on Monday is just a sign of a maturing democracy.

“A country where there is no democracy, there will be an angry president charging the police to arrest these people. But democracy says let the people express themselves.”

And he had a sharp rebuke for a person who asked if the poor were really represented at the World Economic Forum Africa meeting.

“Who elected this president? The masses. And then who represents the masses? It’s not me, I’m an African. I was elected by the Africans – what’s your problem?”

Zuma also says this event is important because the world and the global economy are changing.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)