President Jacob Zuma delivering the keynote address at the end of the 53rd ANC conference held in Mangaung20/12/12

Gaye Davis and Piet Rampedi

A BUOYANT President Jacob Zuma wrapped up a “very successful” 53rd conference of the ANC last night, declaring unity to be the most important task facing the organisation.

He vowed the ANC would not repeat the mistake of assuming, after the bloodletting at its Polokwane conference in 2007, that members would “automatically” work towards unity.

“We must not repeat that mistake. Unity will not happen automatically – we need to work hard for it,” Zuma said.

But the fall-out from the bruising leadership battle in the run-up to Mangaung was already evident with the exclusion from the newly-elected national executive committee of all those who had unsuccessfully challenged top leadership positions.

But Zuma stressed that all members had a right to be nominated for any position and to accept or decline and he said no one should be ostracised for exercising this democrat right.

Delivering the conference declaration, new deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We arrived here with different viewpoints on many issues and we are returning to our communities and branches with unbreakable unity of purpose and single-minded focus on ensuring the ANC continues to be a loyal servant of the people, a dynamic leader of our society and an effective movement for transformation”.

Zuma warned of “decisive action against ill-discipline” and “tendencies” including “factionalism, sowing disunity and confusion within the movement, the use of money to buy members… positions or influence… the hurling of insults or even worse, attacks on members”.

He issued a direct warning of possible disciplinary action to ANC Youth League members still associating themselves with its expelled leader, Julius Malema.

“We’ll be building cadres who respect actions taken by the movement to enforce discipline against others who know the implications of working with members who have been expelled from the organisation, to undermine the organisation.”