KwaZulu-Natal - ANC president Jacob Zuma has described the party’s Mangaung elective congress as a “watershed” conference, warning there are many interest groups, including foreign ones, seeking to “capture” the party.
Once these forces had captured the ANC, he said, they would control South Africa and use its strategic importance as a gateway to the continent.
Addressing KwaZulu-Natal delegates to the conference at the cadres forum at the University of Zululand near Empangeni, Zuma said that given the significance of the conference, it was important for delegates to remain focused to ensure they were not led astray.
Using the analogy of a bus, Zuma said it was not only important that the bus to Mangaung was filled with people who understood the mandate, but that the driver himself should know the road to prevent delegates being led astray.
“You must make sure that the driver and the conductor are the right people so that you do not end up in a destination you do not want,” he warned to applause from more than 5 000 delegates who packed the Bhekuzulu Hall at the university.
Zuma said that the ANC needed to ask itself if the party had come to a crossroads.
“The contestation within the ANC at times reaches such a level we are seen to be quarrelling. But we agree on policies and programmes. We are in agreement that we are also delivering to the best of our capacity. But then what are we quarrelling over?” he asked.
“The delegates should be clear because such clarity should help us. We might be fighting the battles of other people.”
Zuma said that foreign countries could no longer control Africa through administrators.
“You need a country which has influence and a big organised economy. So South Africa has been identified as that country. Then if South Africa is an important country to control, you have to control the ANC. You therefore need a leader in the ANC who can be controlled. That is why there is so much interest in leadership,” he said.
But the control should extend to the entire NEC, he said. “So apply your mind when voting and you need to elect people who can take the revolution forward.”
Zuma said what counted in the ANC was knowledge, adding that members should be active and help the party move forward. “Your contribution at branch level is important.We need to understand the ANC. There is no need to be big-headed,” he said.
“If you lead the ANC you do not lead ANC members, you are led by the members who elected you.
“You cannot become big- headed as a leader. You are there to serve,” he said.
He also spoke against fighting for positions, saying those involved in such battles should be educated, as they gave a poor impression to the people they led.
“Being an ANC member means service to the people. ANC members were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the liberation of this country… that is what we are known for,” Zuma said.
He warned that the party was now facing new challenges and it needed to adapt to these or it would perish.
Zuma said challenges sometimes led to comrades becoming enemies… “and the fact that nowadays comrades are killing each other means the movement has reached a point where challenges become life and death”.
He boasted that the ANC as a party was a reference point to other organisations throughout the world.
“The ANC has always remained. No matter how powerful a leader can be, the ANC is more important and we need to preserve this,” he said.
After addressing the delegates, Zuma jetted off to meet King Goodwill Zwelithini at his eNyokeni Palace.
He did the same before the 2007 Polokwane conference which elected him as the president of the ANC.