Cape Town-140411-President Jacob Zuma and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe visited Elliot where they inveiled a memorial to the Elliot 4. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma must be defended at all costs because he is a “symbol” of the ANC and an attack on him is an attack on the ruling party as a whole, says ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe said the attacks on Zuma were akin to crushing a snake’s head in order to immobilise the rest of its body.

Zuma has been the target of criticism over the past year for the exorbitant cost of security upgrades at his Nkandla residence and, more recently, with the release of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning investigation findings.

Mantashe was speaking during the ANC’s election campaign in the Eastern Cape town of Elliot, in the Chris Hani region of the province.

Addressing a marquee packed with about 1 000 ANC supporters, he said the party shouldn’t relent in defending Zuma, even when its “back is against the wall”.

“We are going to the elections on May 7 and he (Zuma) is going to be the face of the ANC.

“You see, when they attack your president, they are not attacking you personally. You are the symbol of the ANC. If you want to kill a snake you crush its head before the rest of the body dies,” Mantashe said to loud cheers.

He said the ANC was not about defending any specific individual.

“We are defending the party, even when they have our backs against the wall attacking us. The party is not something to play around with,” Mantashe added.

He also took some time to praise Zuma’s steady rise to the top of the party’s leadership from humble beginnings.

“(Zuma) knew the pain of cadres when deployed (during apartheid). He was then elected to the ANC NEC, then he was the deputy secretary-general, deputy president. He is the president today,” said Mantashe.

When it was his turn to take the microphone, Zuma agreed with Mantashe, saying individuals within the party had made blunders and the party should not be blamed for their mistakes.

Weekend Argus