By LEBOGANG SEALE, PIET RAMPEDI AND GEORGE MATLALA
Johannesburg - With the Nkandla saga looming large, the ANC is insistent that President Jacob Zuma is not a liability – to the extent that it may not get more than 60 percent of the vote in the elections.
In an interview with The Star in Mpumalanga on Sunday, the ruling party’s head of policy, Jeff Radebe, said the ANC would forge ahead with Zuma as the face of its election campaign because it had confidence in him.
“The policies of the ANC are very clear, in that the president of the ANC becomes the president of the country,” Radebe said following the launch of the party’s election manifesto in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
“This is the decision of the national conference, which is the highest decision-making body of the ANC.”
However, he was non-committal on whether the ANC would maintain its 65 percent majority in the wake of the emergence of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters, internal ructions and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s pending Nkandla report.
“Well, I can only say we are aiming to ensure we have a decisive, overwhelming victory in these elections. What the percentage will be, I don’t know.
“But I am confident that the vast majority of South Africans will continue voting for the ANC as the party that has brought about freedom and created a much better life than when we came in in 1994.”
This comes as political commentator Professor Susan Booysen said confidence in Zuma within the ANC’s ranks had dipped to an extent that the party debated the possibility of using the late Nelson Mandela as the face of the organisation for the elections.
It also came in the wake of an Ipsos Markinor study that revealed the ANC might get only 53 percent of the vote this year, down from 65 percent in 2009.
“What I have also heard from other sources, but what is second-hand information, is that the ANC’s own research shows that it would do much better without Zuma as the face on the ballot than with Zuma as the face.
“So there is a serious recognition in the ANC that Zuma is a liability rather an asset and that the ANC is not going to grow under Zuma,” Booysen said.
Radebe laughed off this suggestion on Sunday as “a figment of her (Booysen’s) imagination”.
“I am a member of the (ANC) NEC. We had a two-day meeting and nothing like that was debated,” he added.
Booysen said the ANC manifesto was defensive, unimaginative and contained very few new ideas.
The public would not believe its anti-corruption message because the messenger was the same person who was associated with scandals and irregularities over Nkandla.
“They would not have taken him seriously. People are going to turn around and say, it’s easy for you (Zuma) to say that. You have already got Nkandla.
“Are you going to give back Nkandla, which implies that the civil servants are doing things wrong there and they are going to be brought to book for that?” she said.
In response, Radebe said: “I don’t think she has studied this manifesto. This manifesto is a manifesto that is realistic, that projects the future for the country…
“Defensive of what? It’s a very offensive manifesto. We are saying 70 percent of procurement by government must go to local producers. That goes to the heart of our efforts to industrialise.
“To set aside 60 percent for youth is not defensive; (it’s) a very offensive drive in order to ensure the second (stage) of our transition to emancipate our people economically.”