Sarah Evans

NORTHERN Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins made a surprise appearance at the ANC’s provincial conference in Upington last night. Jenkins suffered a stroke during her State of the Province Address in February this year and, despite protestations from her office that she is recovering well, has not made a public appearance until now.

The ANC’s current provincial chairman, John Block, announced her surprise arrival while delivering his political report. Block said the gesture was to show delegates that Jenkins was indeed recovering well.

“She is still part of the provincial executive committee (PEC) and she is still the premier of the province. Two heads are better than one,” Block said, indicating towards Education MEC, Grizelda Cjiekella, who took up the position of acting premier when Jenkins took ill.

Block said it was Jenkins’s birthday on Wednesday, adding that because delegates were not able to wish her a happy birthday in person “if the mountain cannot go to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain”.

Jenkins then stepped onto stage to the delight of the 800 delegates in attendance.

She appeared healthy, singing and dancing along with President Jacob Zuma and other members of the party’s upper echelons. Block called on the media to report accurately on Jenkins’ condition.

Turning his attention to photographers in front of the stage, he said: “You must tell the truth. You must not distort this. You must believe us when we say she is recovering well.”

Earlier in his political address, Block referred to the media as an “attack on the organisation that could not go unchallenged”. He said the media was part of the opposition parties that have formed a coalition.

“Some of the local media have also been playing the role of opposition and assumed a very negative, hostile reporting (sic) of local events and news – a worrying tendency that places them in the fold of the opposition.”

We have seen worrying times when key programmes of the government are completely ignored and key pronouncements are simply diluted by the prominent coverage given to the opposition.”

Block added that “the revolution” was no place for “part-timers and cowards”.

Block also made a special plea to Zuma to relocate the State Diamond Trader (SDT) to Kimberley. The decision to move the SDT to Kimberley was overturned as government felt the city did not have the infrastructure to support it. “We are convinced, Comrade President, that the (original) decision to relocate the SDT to Kimberley was the correct decision,” he said.

Block also warned against “regionalism” with regards to the location of the proposed university in the Northern Cape. He said the university was to benefit all regions in the province and that the issue of its location must be treated with “sensitivity and maturity”.

He called on the conference to address the issue of “deployment”, which he said had made ANC members lazy and added that Cope members who have returned to the ANC should be treated as ordinary members.

“We need to manage the misinterpretation of the concept of deployment. If not properly managed, it can, in the words of President Nelson Mandela ‘endanger the revolution’.

“Deployment has made comrades lazy. It makes them lose initiative and stop looking for jobs, because they think the ANC will deploy them somewhere in government,” Block added,

He added that the party had moved away from the violence and factionalism of the previous conference, held in Moshaweng in 2007.