Rain pounds Zuma day

May 9, 2009 12:00 am

, PRETORIA, May 9- Thousands of people on Saturday streamed into the Union Buildings, the seat of South Africa’s government, to witness Jacob Zuma’s inauguration despite heavy rains and wintry weather.

The government complex on a hilltop in Pretoria took on a festival atmosphere as heads of states, foreign dignitaries, and thousands of onlookers arrived.

Zuma’s inauguration around noon (1000 GMT) will cap a dramatic comeback for a man whose political career had derailed over corruption charges, but finally shook off a court case and rallied grassroots supporters to bring him to the top of government.

Nearly 30 leaders are attending the ceremony, including several who have sparked protests from activists here, such as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, and North Korea’s number two Kim Yong-Nam.

As the leaders filed into the venue, musicians performed on a stage with traditional dancers for the thousands of people huddled under umbrellas on the lawns below.

"I came all the way from KwaZulu-Natal to be part of this event, I wouldn’t miss it for the world," said the elated Sipho Zondi, who came from Zuma’s home province.

Zondi and a group of his six friends travelled through the night by train from the coastal region of Stanger.

"Rain is a sign of good luck. In African culture when it rains during your ceremony, it means thing are going to go well for you. So in this case it means Zuma is going to have a good term in office," said the beaming Zondi.

The government has invited 5,000 guests to the ceremony, while 30,000 onlookers were expected on the lawns, where Zuma plans to address them in the afternoon.

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