President Jacob Zuma and newly elected ANC Nelson Mandela Bay chairperson Andile Lungisa. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA
Port Elizabeth – President Jacob Zuma has endorsed newly elected ANC Nelson Mandela Bay chairperson Andile Lungisa, despite the party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe having asked him to withdraw from the leadership race prior to his victory.

Zuma jetted into Port Elizabeth on Sunday hours after Lungisa, the former ANC Youth League deputy president, was confirmed the new regional boss. He told Lungisa that the ancestors agreed with his election and that the will of the people should be respected.

Zuma’s endorsement came after Lungisa disregarded Mantashe’s strongly worded letter to withdraw from the leadership race.

Mantashe had written to party structures on Wednesday, advising them that the party’s constitution prohibited comrades serving in the provincial executive committee (PEC) from contesting positions in lower structures.

Lungisa, who is seen as part of a group within the ANC that wants Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to succeed Zuma as ANC leader in December, and possibly the country in 2019, serves in the Eastern Cape ANC PEC.

In the letter, Mantashe had emphasised that comrades should not be allowed to resign from the PECs ahead of conferences, as doing so would be “opportunistic”.

Nonetheless, Lungisa went ahead and contested the chairperson position after briefly pulling out of the race. In a move that could put him at odds with his comrades, Zuma endorsed his election, saying the majority had spoken and “ours is to take that decision and make it ours”.

Lungisa wasted no time after his election to leap to Dlamini Zuma’s defence. He called on the “liberal media” to report fairly on her and to stop trying to “divide and ridicule ANC leaders”.

Answering The Star’s question on “the perspective that Andile Lungisa supports Nkosazana”, the former National Youth Development Agency chairperson said: “If you talk about comrade Nkosazana, what is dominant in the media now is that she is President Zuma’s ex-wife. They are not even mentioning her by name.

“In (the ANC’s 2007 national elective conference) Polokwane, she was part of (former president Thabo) Mbeki’s line-up. The media said she is a courageous, independent leader. Today that analogy has changed. What is different between 2007 and now? I am saying we must always strike a balance.”

He also vowed to make the region, seen as a former ANC stronghold, vibrant again and influential “when it comes to national politics”.

The new leadership that was elected during the three-day elective conference included Lungisa’s deputy Phumzile Tshuni, secretary Themba Xathula, deputy secretary Desiree Davids and treasurer Mbulelo Gidane.

Lungisa said the leadership would move with speed in expropriating land without compensation "because the biggest pool of our people still do not have land.

“We cannot negotiate when our land was taken forcefully by settlers in this country. We fought for land.”

His remarks come after Zuma sparked fierce debate within the ANC after recently telling traditional leaders that the country’s laws would have to be amended to make way for land expropriation without compensation. “We never fought to sing the national anthem and wave the flag,” he said.

The Star