Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma said his defeated rivals would not break away and he would not boot his opponents out of cabinet, but warned the youth league to toe the line and cautioned the alliance partners to tone down their criticism.
He reiterated that Kgalema Motlanthe, who challenged him but lost at the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung this week, will remain the deputy president of the country. Motlanthe has also confirmed he will not resigned.
In an interview with The Sunday Independent, Zuma – who was re-elected party president – has dismissed the possibility of a breakaway party formed by rivals who were crushed at the conference.
Speculation is rife in political circles that a mysterious new party registered on the eve of the conference, the South African National Congress (SANC), could be the so-called Forces of Change, or Anyone But Zuma politicians’ vehicle to challenge the ruling party at the next general election.
Zuma said the memories of the failure of Cope, the last party to splinter from the ANC, were “too fresh”.
“I don’t think there will be a repeat of Polokwane. You can’t take that decision (to form a new party) on your feet and be emotional. That example showed it did not work. Look at Cope today. It’s never even had a single conference,” Zuma said.
In the 2009 general elections Cope, comprised of unhappy ANC leaders who lost power in the party in 2007, contested the polls hoping to cash in on ANC divisions.
The party has since fractured and split, failing to build on its respectable showing in the 2009 poll, when it won 7.42 percent of the vote. In the 2011 municipal poll, the party struggled to stay afloat as its internal wrangling caused it to implode. Many of its leading lights have since returned to the ANC.
Opposition hopes for a new party with a credible track record among majority communities remain frustrated despite calls from DA leader Helen Zille.
She has called on all “constitutionalists” across parties to realign the opposition landscape to give the ANC a fight in the 2014 poll.
But these efforts have been dealt a blow with the announcement that Motlanthe would be entrusted with the ANC’s new political school, thus robbing any new party of trying to cash in on the deputy president’s authority and widespread respect.
“Kgalema remains a leader of the ANC. He will continue in the state. I met him and (ANC’s new deputy president) Cyril (Ramaphosa) and we agreed that he will continue with political work in the party. He remains the deputy president of the republic,” Zuma said.
The president has also manoeuvred to prevent any breakaway by pouring cold water on speculation he would axe cabinet ministers and premiers who opposed him at Mangaung.
They include Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale and his North West counterpart Thandi Modise.
“I don’t have it in my mind to have a reshuffle. I work with them in government. They were with me in Polokwane (the 2007 ANC conference). The ANC will look at this. I don’t think it’s a matter I can speak of now. We need to work together, we need cohesion. It also depends on how we interact.
“When there is contestation, which is part of the ANC’s tradition, it is important to remember that you are contesting a comrade, not an opponent. Not an enemy. After the election, whoever is elected becomes the leadership of the whole ANC,” Zuma said.
While Zuma was magnanimous about those in the ANC’s national executive committee who had backed Motlanthe against him, he drew the line on the youth league.
He said the league’s leadership behaved in a “peculiar manner” that was not “helpful” to the league and the ANC. He said this behaviour was the result of the failure of the league to fully understand the ANC’s procedures. He added that its former president, Julius Malema, was a repeat offender.
“If you can remember the individual had a previous offence. There were recommendations made for rehabilitation. It was ignored. Our view in the ANC is to nurture, to guide – which is why we didn’t start off harsh. But this was interpreted as weakness on my part.”
Zuma also said the individuals involved in the disciplinary process refused to “submit” themselves to the political discipline of the party.
Zuma said the league currently did not have a president, and this had to be resolved speedily. Zuma said the youth league needed to be organisationally in sync with the ANC.
“Their job is to organise and draw in the youth, not attack the ANC as if it is in opposition to the mother body.”
Zuma also urged the ANC’s allies in the tripartite alliance to be mindful of the “tone” of their criticisms. He said the unity of the alliance was “precious” and had to be carefully nurtured.
He said “mature and politically grounded” leaders in the alliance needed to not act as opposition leaders, but fraternal allies, critiquing the ANC within structures and not on public platforms. - Sunday Independent