Don't disrupt the World Cup, Zuma tells South Africans

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma appealed Wednesday for unhappy taxi operators and striking workers to put aside their grievances and not disrupt the World Cup.

He said in an interview on national broadcaster SABC it was not in the African culture to fight while hosting visitors.

These, and recent often-violent protests over living conditions in poor townships, have raised fears the event will be disrupted, embarrassing South Africa, the first African country to host the World Cup.

Zuma said it was merely a coincidence that the tournament was being held during South Africa's annual salary negotiation season. Workers had the right to strike and the government could not demand they accept a pay offer because of the World Cup.

But should issues not be resolved in time, they should return to work for that period to make sure the tournament runs smoothly, he said.

"Here is an opportunity, the World Cup has never come to Africa, this is the first time. The whole continent is waiting to honor them, to receive the visitors that are coming," he said. "I don't think we should disappoint the continent as the South African population.

"That is why I made the point (that) if you have visitors in your house you don't start fighting in the house, particularly if you know the visitor is just here overnight."

About 250,000 fans are expected to visit South Africa during for the World Cup, with another 100,000 seen traveling from other African countries.

(Reporting by Gordon Bell; Editing by Jon Hemming)