Durban - He is going nowhere. That was the resounding message from the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday as it rallied behind President Jacob Zuma, who was back in his home province after a week of high drama that ended in a major cabinet reshuffle.
The president looked unfazed but tired when he addressed crowds in Imbali township in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.
Acting premier, Sihle Zikalala, told the crowd that the ANC in KZN supported Zuma’s decision to change the cabinet and they were happy with the new ministers.
“I’ve been hearing people making comments about the recent cabinet reshuffle, but what I know is that leadership is a relay; so, when you lead there will come a time when you have to hand over the baton to someone else.
“In politics, no one can rule forever. The only people who are born to lead until death are kings and chiefs and we accept that,” he said.
MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda also pinned his colours to Zuma’s mast – to thunderous applause and joyous ululation.
“We support you during this time because when you do your duties as the president, you are bound to be criticised.”
Zuma was in the province for the launch of the Aloe Ridge Westgate Grange social/rental housing project – the biggest of its kind in the country. When Zuma spoke it was about housing projects around the country including Cornubia, north of Durban. All interview requests were declined.
“We are making a call to all our beneficiaries to value their houses. We have noticed some disturbing trends where government housing beneficiaries sell their houses and then become indigent again,” he said.
Also attending the event was ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, who issued a statement expressing his frustration at how the cabinet reshuffle was handled, saying he felt the ANC was no longer at the centre of the president’s decisions.
“The manner in which these events unfolded may have had long, undesirable consequences for the ANC and South Africa.
“Regardless of which individual is responsible for which portfolio, what matters most should always be the interest of the ANC and the country above any other narrow interest.”
Mkhize did not sit on the podium and left before the event ended.
While Zuma was assured of support by his staunch allies, the coming days will be tough for him.
Opposition parties are pushing for National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to allow for another motion of no-confidence against him to be held this week.
On Saturday, parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Mbete was considering the requests made by the DA and the EFF.
Opposition parties want the motion to be debated within days.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu could not be reached for comment on whether the party would support the opposition parties on the motion.
The ANC has the majority of MPs in the National Assembly with 249 members out of 400.
The opposition wants disgruntled ANC MPs to vote with them and said they needed a substantial number on their side to remove Zuma.
The ANC has said in the past its MPs were there on the ticket of the party and did not represent themselves.
The party’s MPs always voted as a bloc on bills and any other matters of national interests, including motions of no-confidence against the president.
The president is the first ANC leader to face a series of motions of no-confidence in the National Assembly.
He has survived them all – and with the full backing of the ANC. – Additional reporting by Siyabonga Mkhwanazi