Zuma has little impact on SA's reputation

Washington - Scandals involving President Jacob Zuma have little impact on South Africa's reputation in the US, Brand SA country manager Simon Barber said on Friday.

South Africans were more worried about issues such as the R246m upgrade to Zuma's private home in Nkandla, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, he said in Washington.

"This stuff isn't being followed [in the US] and it's pretty much inside baseball.”

"Let's be honest, from a US point of view, so the president has his compound in KZN which costs $20m well, you know, in this country people in New York buy apartments for $20m. So I don't think people are widely stunned by that", he said.

"That's our politics; it doesn't say an awful lot about the country as a whole."

South Africa's asset was that in the US it was seen as the country of former President Nelson Mandela.

"That still resonates strongly with the United States", Barber said.

"Record numbers of Americans are going into South Africa for holidays and business, 300 000 last year, and all of them are coming back with a good story to tell."

'We look good'

In terms of business interest, US investors could be more concerned with issues of labour unrest.

However South Africans, sitting in South Africa, were not very good at looking at the country in context, Barber said.

"We are not the only emerging market that had labour unrest, so it's been a problem for us right now, [but] in the broader scheme of things we not that unusual", he said.

The country has just come out of a five-month strike in the platinum mining sector and a four week strike in the metals and engineering sector.

Barber was speaking ahead of the US-Africa Leaders' Summit, which is being held in Washington next week.

A South African delegation, led by Zuma, will be attending the summit.

Barber said in terms of US interest, South Africa had a boring story at the moment.

The strikes on Gaza, the clashes between Russia and the Ukraine, and Boko Haram in Nigeria where taking most of the focus.

"The old news line is 'if it bleeds it leads'. Well, we not bleeding relatively speaking.

"There isn't blood running in our streets, our girls are not being kidnapped by religious fanatics, we aren't at war or bombing anybody. We look pretty good right now", he said.

However, there were a number of stereotypes about South Africa and Africa.

Many people in the US did not see South Africa as having an advanced manufacturing sector.

"When you tell them that 3 Series BMW you see parked over there could well have been made in Pretoria, they stunned."

Brand SA in the US was trying to change that perception, Barber said.

Read more on: nelson mandela jacob zuma
Grant Durban 2014-08-02 08:37:49 AM
Well written article
John Greystoke 2014-08-02 08:40:25 AM
That is all good and well, but we are still seen as a banana Republic. We are seen as an undeveloped country. How do we see ourselves also matters and I see RSA as a joke. A bad joke.
Irukandji 2014-08-02 08:40:41 AM
"...Zuma has little impact on SA's reputation..." Reputation? What reputation?
Jurgen Hartmann 2014-08-02 08:43:39 AM
Simon Barber is deluding himself and talking rubbish to try and get all touchy feely about SA. All my connections in many countries most certainly do worry about the state of the anc gutterment and its abysmal, corrupt leadership, which is why investment opportunities are flying out the window to other countries.
Bongani Nsele 2014-08-02 08:45:38 AM
the DA- Nats have just received sad news, the Zuma bashing onslaught has been thrown in the back pack wow....
rory 2014-08-02 08:47:24 AM
Well maybe it does not matter to the Americans, but it matters to us hard working South African, that our taxes are being used and abused by the president of our country, while everyone knows worldwide that the average black South African is the poorest of the poor in this country.
Margaret Cox 2014-08-02 08:48:51 AM
That's because the rest of the world has more important things to be concerned with, than some little tin-pot African arssehole.
AnnaM 2014-08-02 08:49:13 AM
So not even 1 out of 300 000 people had a not-so-wonderful experience in south africa?
Theo Martinez 2014-08-02 08:50:04 AM
And Mr Barber, why don't you tell us also that the US has spend very little to no tax money on Obama's private house in Chicago . And compare that with Nkandla.
Motofogo Mulilo 2014-08-02 08:51:02 AM
It is the way the media works in US. Was there and not a single day did I see an article on business or sport or any social on South Africa. They put up pictures of shacks whenever they report on SA. Its about murders and poaching IF they report at all. Average people there dont even know there is a country called SA.