27/04/2011 President Jacob Zuma at the Union Building during the freedom day celebration. Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

The ANC’s January 8 statement this year will be a complex balancing act for the party and its embattled president, Jacob Zuma, political analyst Somadoda Fikeni has said.

On Saturday, Zuma is to deliver the traditional January 8 statement in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, where the party will be celebrating its 102 years of existence.

Also as this is the election year, the ANC will use the birthday rally to unpack its election manifesto, thereby formally starting its election campaign programme

Fikeni said because this year’s January 8 rally came 20 years after the country attained democracy, the ANC would most likely use the opportunity to defend the government’s record over the past two decades.

“It is also the first January 8 post-Mandela, so you can expect his legacy to feature a lot. But Mandela’s legacy can be a double-edged sword because if you overstate it, then you get asked how far you have come to live up to his standard.”

The ANC would want to reclaim Mandela especially as his death was still fresh in the minds of many South Africans, Fikeni said, but it should be careful not to be seen to be exploiting the late president.

But one of the major headaches for the party was that it went to this birthday bash with its president under attack from all angles.

“With the many allegations surrounding him, there is definitely a sense of vulnerability there,” said Fikeni.

Zuma had had a tough time in recent months with opposition parties and even some within the tripartite alliance calling for his head.

Part of the unhappiness came from the costly upgrades to his private residence, which had been justified by the state as being part of necessary security upgrades.

“This comes at a time when the alliance partners - from Cosatu to the youth league - are experiencing serious internal fragmentation; once again this would need a balancing act,” he said.

Last month Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, Numsa, broke ranks and called for Zuma to step down.

The metalworkers’ union also announced that it would not be backing the ANC in the elections expected in May.

Fikeni believes while there will be some new things, the manifesto will be mainly a continuation from the past.

“On new things, the ANC would want to show how the National Development Plan for example would be a hinging point for different policies. And it would try to show how it is moving beyond just the five key priority areas.”

By yesterday the ANC leaders had started with festivities leading up to the main rally on Saturday. Zuma addressed mini-gatherings at Mpumalanga’s kaNyamazane township.

City Press Online quoted Zuma as saying the ANC would lead the country “for ever and ever”.

The DA lashed out at Zuma’s comments yesterday, saying some of his utterances amounted to scare tactics.

The DA claimed it was growing in Mpumalanga at the expense of the ANC. - Daily News

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