South Africa's President Jacob Zuma celebrates his re-election as Party President at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein December 18, 2012. South Africa's ruling ANC re-elected Zuma as its leader on Tuesday, setting him up for seven more years as head of state of Africa's biggest economy. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Immediately after sweeping to a decisive victory for a second term as ANC leader, President Jacob Zuma made a surprise address to the elective conference in Mangaung, calling delegates to set aside differences and unite behind the new leadership. In a statesman-like message, Zuma used the captive audience to try and put aside the differences which besieged the party in the run up to the ANC’s 53rd national conference in Mangaung.

“For members of the ANC to have preferences is their democratic right…contestation for leadership is part of the democratic culture…once elections have taken place and branches have spoken, that is the decision of all of us,” Zuma said.

“More important than all of us is the ANC. Once the ANC has spoken, we must look at how we treat one another. I don’t want after elections that comrades who are part of us must feel they (are) outside the organisation,” Zuma said to cheers from delegates.

Although his camp marched to an overwhelming victory over the Forces of Change which campaigned for his removal, Zuma extended an olive branch.

“I don’t think we should continue to say some things – which I don’t want to say – which will make another comrade feel uncomfortable…It must be a united organisation, not a divided organisation.”

“Let us handle one another as comrades,” the president said.

Before Zuma started speaking, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who lost his position in the party to businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, left his seat in the front row and walked onto the stage to congratulate the newly elected leaders. However he hung back as Zuma addressed the conference.

Zuma rounded off the brief address by saying: “We are the best, we must show it in practice,” before breaking into a song which calls for the party to follow its leaders. Among the delegates who clapped and sang along was Gauteng ANC chairman Paul Mashatile and Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale, who led the Forces of Change campaign. - NewsFire