DESPITE a moratorium until October on succession discussions, President Jacob Zuma has been accused of using his party and government position to campaign for re-election at the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference.
His supporters did not hide their enthusiasm for his serving a second term when he delivered the party’s centenary lecture in Johannesburg on Friday. Some in the audience sang pro-Zuma songs while waving a two- finger peace sign as a symbol of endorsing a second term.
So blatant was the campaigning that an unknown musician who was roped in to sing the ANC centenary celebration song at the event could not help it but declare “Zuma for second term” at the end of his rendition.
Zuma this week spent two days in Gauteng – at first testing the public transport system on Thursday, then delivering Friday evening’s ANC presidential memorial lecture at the Joburg City Hall in honour of the late ANC leader Alfred AB Xuma, who led the party between 1940 and 1949.
In 1949, it was the youth league that engineered Xuma’s removal – and replacement by James Moroka – for refusing to take a militant stance against the apartheid government. The youth league’s faction aligned to the expelled leader Julius Malema also wants to remove Zuma.
In his speech, Zuma said the difference between the then youth league and that of Malema, whom he did not mention by name, was that leadership election was discussed internally, not outside the structures of the ANC.
Zuma, quoting Xuma’s words, said once you gave the leadership an ultimatum, you were putting it up for sale.
“I don’t think leadership should be sold, as Dr Xuma said. You can’t make leadership an article of commerce by selling it and I can tell you, any leader who comes through that process, you must know, you don’t have a leader. A leader must stick to principle, must do what the ANC says he (or she) must do. I think that is very important. That is ANC teachings,” he said to loud applause.
Zuma said it was wrong for the youth league to equate the issues that led to Xuma’s removal to his own circumstances. “People want to equate situations that are not the same. There were serious discussions within the structures of the ANC but people differed and expressed their views. Others felt, well, the time has come that we now act and act concretely. They did not agree on the tactics, nor on the strategy. Once there was ‘if you don’t do it’, then (you will be removed). Xuma said ‘no, no, our leadership is not for sale’.”
Zuma said that although conferences could at times solve issues, they could also spark off problems; a reference to the problems the ANC is facing today as a result of past action by the youth league to remove Xuma.
He said Malema had wanted to perform a similar feat.
Gauteng politicians have claimed Zuma’s visit was designed to garner support to win a second term as ANC president in Mangaung in December. Five sources – two Gauteng ANC provincial leaders, two regional leaders and a party official – this week told The Sunday Independent that Zuma was using the government to effectively canvass support in the province, which is perceived to be against his leadership style.
“Basically, you can see that there is no support for him here, but he was using the government angle of inspecting public transport in Gauteng to spend the two days here,” one leader said on condition of anonymity, “because the ANC has banned campaigning and lobbying publicly for positions ahead of Mangaung”. The true test for Zuma, he said, would be his trip to Limpopo in July to deliver the next centenary lecture.
Zuma has visited the Eastern Cape and the North West where he inspected the troubled Education Department and water projects. This week, the government said, Zuma was evaluating the efficiency of the transport system in Gauteng.
In May, Zuma handed over 14 tractors worth R4 million and Nguni cattle to traditional leaders and black emerging farmers in Peddie (in the former Ciskei homeland) and in Butterworth (in the former Transkei) in the Eastern Cape, the second-biggest ANC constituency after KwaZulu- Natal, his supposed stronghold.
Also in May, the president donated blankets and gowns to the elderly in Alexandra. Gauteng is the third-largest province in the ANC.
Simon Mofokeng, the deputy chairman of the youth league in Gauteng, welcomed Zuma’s address, in particular the president’s emphasis that he should not be blackmailed.
In spite of the accusations, since he came to power, Zuma has undertaken spot and surprise visits and met people “on the ground”.
The cabinet said this week it supported his spot visits.
“Cabinet noted that President Jacob Zuma would be conducting a monitoring and evaluation visit to Gauteng, with a focus on public transport.”