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President Jacob Zuma is on the warpath against ill-discipline and critics of the ANC, and he vowed the party would “fight back” so its voice could be heard.
Closing the Free State ANC conference on Sunday, just ahead of the national policy indaba, Zuma said: “If we fail to deal with the issue of discipline… we would be failing the ANC. Post-Mangaung (the ANC’s national elective conference in December), some of the behaviour you display today should not occur,” he told the 750 voting delegates from a speaker’s podium displaying the poster “Hands off our President Jacob Msholozi Zuma”.
He was referring to continued claims that processes in the run-up to the Free State’s conference were manipulated. These had not been properly resolved, according to the ANC Youth League in the province and Mxolisi Dukwana, the former economic affairs MEC who was widely expected to challenge Ace Magashule for the position of chairman, but who instead stayed away.
Dukwana called the conference illegitimate. A handful of other senior provincial party executive committee members and the Free State ANCYL also boycotted it.
Luthuli House and Zuma on Sunday endorsed the conference as having been properly constituted. According to the credentials, or report on delegates attendance, 239 of the Free State’s 318 branches were represented, meeting the required 70 percent threshold.
In his speech, Zuma lamented that the voice of the ANC was not being heard in a public space he said was dominated by analysts, critics and academics who were not members of the organisation.
He said while SA was well-regarded abroad, the domestic focus was negative and sensationalist.
In a criticism of the media, Zuma said: “If you are in South Africa, you’d think we were in a different country. Successes are not reported, only sensation and controversies. What is talked about are negative things. We have to correct that.
“We have to fight back with the truth.”
He said the ANC had been silent for too long.
In a dig at the youth league, Zuma stressed that, historically, it had raised issues within the party, not from outside.
“What is important is to know the role of the youth within the ANC, not to create a new role that never existed,” he said to applause.
The conference declaration noted with concern the absence of the youth league and highlighted as a good example of discipline the steps that led to the expulsion of youth league leader Julius Malema – but without naming him.
Speaking on the eve of the ANC’s crucial policy conference, Zuma said this week’s discussions would take the ANC into the next century – and “the next century and next century and the next century…”