Durban - President Jacob Zuma is steering the ANC in the right direction, but must use his second term to fight poverty, create jobs for the youth and eliminate bureaucratic red tape, say ordinary party members.
They want him to replace inefficient and underqualified government officials and cabinet members with skilled and qualified ones; expedite the transfer of land to blacks from whites; and ensure there is no repeat of the embarrassing state failures like the Limpopo textbook crisis.
Speaking to The Star at the ANC’s 101 birthday celebrations in Durban at the weekend, five of the ruling party’s rank-and-file members urged the ANC leader not be distracted by the negative publicity he had received, because his achievements were a sign that “the media campaign against him” was failing.
Pleased that the ANC appeared to be turning the corner and making strides in changing the lives of ordinary South Africans, they wanted Zuma to use his second term to “genuinely” implement key party policies, pay young graduates stipends to volunteer their skills in the health-care sector, and enforce party discipline.
However, they expected the ANC president not to lose sight of the party’s service delivery priorities: poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Ponki Ngubane, a 60-year-old ANC member from a branch in Gugulethu, Cape Town, said Zuma was on the right track because “we are in a revolution and making changes”.
“What also impressed us is the issue of land that was already closed. A lot of people were left outside, but he has announced that it will be reopened.
“That in itself shows that the ANC really cares about people,” said Ngubane, who has been self-employed for the past 20 years “without necessarily making money”.
Ngubane said he got value for the R4 000 spent on a return flight ticket to Durban from Cape Town, as well as accommodation.
“It is worth every penny because I spent my money to come here. I have not been disappointed by what I heard. For both of us (he and his wheelchair-bound friend), we spent R8 226.”
Only skilled and well-educated people should be deployed to key government positions, Ngubane insisted. And “the question of textbooks should not happen again”.
For 52-year-old Maxwell Moss, a community activist from the Basil February branch in Saldanha Bay, the ANC under Zuma was on the right track. However, it desperately needed political education as it entered its “second phase of the transition” to instil discipline and teach young members its history”.
“President Zuma, as a person, must continue in that trend. It is very clear the mass media is losing, you can see all over. In spite of all this negative publicity that he is getting, he is thriving. He did it again today. He will continue to do that,” Moss said.
The former ANC MP added: “I think what he needs to do is to genuinely implement the policies we have, to make sure red tape and bureaucracy that still exist become something of the past. He must also kick out those who do not want to do what they should. They must make way for those willing to work.”
Pinky Jele, from the Moses Mabhida branch in KwaZulu-Natal’s Musa Dladla region, said Zuma must stick to unemployment, inequality and poverty eradication as his and the ANC’s priorities. The number of people trapped in poverty remained his main challenge.
“It needs time, and some of the people are a bit impatient. They want things to happen as in like yesterday, as in like now, and we can’t have a situation like that.”
Bongani Ndlovu, a teacher and ANC member from the Shombela branch in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, believed Zuma must complete his task of improving health care and education “because it is a second term now and he has to do a lot of things”.
Zuma used his speech at the 101th-year celebration to stamp his authority on the ANC, campaign for the general election next year, and outline the party’s programme of action for the year.
He promised to eliminate apartheid legacies, enforce organisational discipline, fast-track land restitution, improve health care and education, and intervene decisively in the economy to redistribute wealth, among others.
Zuma also pledged to accelerate his infrastructure development programme, aimed at upgrading the country’s 23 poorest areas, and to change the lives of 19 million residents in rural areas who are without basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.