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Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has apologised to the people of South Africa for taking part in a campaign that paved the way for Jacob Zuma to become the leader of both the ANC and the country.
Speaking exclusively to Independent Newspapers from his rented Sandown home on Wednesday, Malema said he had no regrets – except one. “My only regret was to campaign for Zuma – and I apologise dearly for causing this country pain.”
Malema accused Zuma of hijacking the ANC Youth League’s economic freedom campaign by dressing it up in new clothes of a “second transition”.
Malema made the claim on Wednesday as delegates to the ANC’s policy conference roundly rejected the idea after devoting much of the past two days to fiercely debating it.
Members of the ANC’s national executive committee, its leagues and branches said each of the 11 commissions that spent much of Tuesday and all of on Wednesday discussing the state of the ANC and the second transition proposal had rejected it.
It is still too early to say whether this reflects a significant shift in the balance of forces within the ANC, or how much it dents Zuma’s chances of re-election for a second term at Mangaung in December, where he faces a possible challenge from his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.
Six of the ANC’s nine provinces had already rejected the idea of a second transition before coming to the conference.
Zuma himself appeared to prepare the ground for the possible defeat of the notion when he told journalists on Tuesday that its rejection would not signify a blow to any individual, as it had been endorsed by the ANC’s national executive committee – and would thus be a case of the movement failing “the poorest of the poor”. He blamed the media for creating the “hype” that tried to make the second transition a proxy leadership debate.
Malema said the only way for Zuma to remain relevant “was to address the economic challenges confronting our people, a matter he has been denying”.
“We raised the issue of white males controlling the economy, but we were called racist. (Now) he is repeating it,” Malema said.
This was a reference to Zuma saying at the conference on Tuesday that ownership of the economy remained largely in white men’s hands – and counted among the obstacles to ending poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Malema said it was the league that had first raised many of the issues Zuma had referred to in his speech during its economic freedom campaign, which calls for nationalisation of the mines and other economic sectors and the expropriation of land without compensation.
Malema said Zuma was “not acknowledging (that) these views were raised by the youth league”.
“It’s as if I was expelled (so that Zuma) could shine on the issues we have raised,” Malema claimed. Zuma this month shut the door on any chances of Malema’s expulsion being reviewed by the national executive committee of the ANC.
Independent Newspapers understands that delegates found it a step too far to ditch the strategy and tactics document adopted at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, where Zuma was elected, and which clearly spelled out the need for fundamental social and economic change to deal with poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Close allies of Zuma said the rejection of the second transition idea had “nothing to do with Zuma’s chances at Mangaung”. And they characterised Malema’s comments as a bid to “throw stones” and block efforts to come up with ways of effectively dealing with the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Said one: “Those who keep throwing up the question of who is going to lead are blocking us from addressing the real question – the balance that needs to be struck between dealing with the weaknesses within the ANC, that have led to mistakes and inefficiencies while in power, and the need to change the fundamentals of this economy.”
ANC policy chief Jeff Radebe told journalists that part of the debate was whether a new strategy and tactics document – the movement’s policy compass – was needed at all. The ANC did not jettison strategy and tactics documents.
Malema said there was no need for a second transition as “the Freedom Charter and the national democratic revolution… seek to attain economic power”.
“To wake up in the morning and announce you are now in a second transition, like (it’s) the second birthday of a child, is politically incorrect and lacks ideological clarity,” Malema said.
The ANC would report back on Thursday on the outcome of the debate.