Former president Jacob Zuma says his family believe the media may have triggered his son’s lupus flare-ups with its “harsh reports”.
“Vusi suffered many times. He had to swallow things that were said about his father and those exacerbated his condition,” he said. Zuma said this while explaining to mourners why his family had prevented the media from attending Vusi’s funeral at Rhema Bible Church in Randburg, Johannesburg, on Saturday.
The former president said it was his children who asked that the funeral be private. “Of course I had to ask why, but when they came back to me one of them who has gone through this experience of lupus broke down and cried.
“They told me the pain of seeing Vusi suffer when he read these harsh statements about me in the media.” Zuma said journalists needed to find a less harsh way to report.
“It is really painful that we have citizens that could have such views about the media. They must know that if they write about people, sometimes those people may not like what they say. Please find a way to say it.
“But media is media. They seem to be above many things, but I want to say that it is important that in whatever we do, we respect the rights of other people,” he said. Zuma spoke about the pain of losing a child and the special bond he had had with his son. He said they bonded over watching cartoons and swimming.
“It is the first time I’m losing a child. It has put a weight in my being. It is difficult to live with it,” he said. “In him I saw qualities indicating that a good man will emerge out of this boy, someone who will play an important role in the family and the country.”
Vusi was 25. Zuma described him as “quiet, focused, clear about his values, very sweet, respectful and a good listener who never raised his voice”. Zuma was surrounded by his children, grandchildren and wives, including his estranged wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma.
Vusi’s high-profile siblings, twins Duduzane and Duduzile Zuma, bid him goodbye with moving testimonies. Mourners who gathered at the church included cabinet ministers Nomvula Mokonyane, Bheki Cele, Naledi Pandor and Malusi Gigaba.
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe and ANC top six members Ace Magashule and Jessie Duarte also attended. Also present were Zuma loyalists Supra Mahumapelo, Carl Niehaus and Faith Muthambi.
Vusi died last week from complications of lupus. The last-born child of Zuma and his late wife, Kate Mantsho, was buried at Westpark Cemetery.