By Kemantha Govender
Durban – President Jacob Zuma jokingly asked the Royal Prince of Monaco to pay labola for his South African bride, Princess Charlene, as he welcomed guests attending the International Olympic Committee session.
The IOC is having its 123rd session in Durban and a host of international delegates, including Prince Albert and German President Christian Wulff. Prince Albert will participate in the deliberations as member of the IOC.
Zuma got the crowd relaxed and laughing when he told the Prince that in South Africa, there is a labola system and he would need to provide specifically Nguni cows for his bride, whom he married last weekend.
On a more official note, the President welcomed Prince Albert and “our own Princess Charlene of Monaco. We continue to treasure the pride that Princess Charlene brought to South Africa as an Olympic swimmer. She continues to be our wonderful ambassador to the world.”
He added: “We also warmly welcome the 2018 Olympic Winter Games candidate cities of Munich in Germany, Annecy in France and PyeongChang in South Korea. We wish all three cities well during their nail-biting wait.”
The Monaco royal couple arrived at the King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu-Natal, where they were received by Premier Zweli Mkhize, eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo and other senior government officials.
Zuma said the Olympics movement is special in this country, given the solidarity received in 1964 when the IOC banned apartheid South Africa from participating in the Tokyo Olympics -- a ban that was to span 32 years.
IOC President Jacques Rogge told the audience he appreciated the warm welcome South Africa has shown to his organisation.
Rogge also thanked Zuma for his support in all sporting events. He said the President has demonstrated his support for sport from his days as a football captain on Robben Island.
After the formalities ended, Rogge presented Zuma with a token of appreciation. The Prince also took the opportunity to walk around and greet delegates.
According to media reports, Prince Albert and the former Olympic swimmer will host their South African wedding party on Thursday at the Oyster Box hotel in Umhlanga. Over 300 guests are expected for the evening affair.