South African President Jacob Zuma with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the ruling ANC policy conference in Mangaung. The party discussed economic reforms related to land control and mining., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Zuma publicly rebukes Motlanthe
Tuesday, 30 October 2012 00:00
JOHANNESBURG — South African President Jacob Zuma yesterday publicly rebuked his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe for talking down the country, as rumours of a leadership challenge mounted.Just hours after deputy president Motlanthe asserted that the ruling ANC is approaching a “tipping point” and admitted that South Africa was in a “rut,” Zuma bluntly told journalists that view was “not correct.”
“South Africa is not in a tipping point, I think that is totally misunderstanding where South Africa is.”
“I think that South Africa is on the move, moving forward. I think that it is not correct to look at the country from that point of view. It’s quite an unfortunate statement. We are not tipping.” The comments showed a stark divergence between South Africa’s top two politicians, amid a rash of industrial unrest and political tumult.
Addressing criticism that the ANC is out of touch and that Zuma’s government has mishandled deadly mining violence, Motlanthe told the Financial Times that change was needed for the party and the country.
“There is no doubt about it that we need renewal or we’re going south.” He added that a December ANC conference “will represent a tipping point depending on what happens.”
“The point is the ANC has to find a way of connecting with that generation. If we don’t, they will not see the ANC as their natural political home,” Motlanthe said.
“If the ANC is capable of renewing itself, then, of course, it would equal the challenges in terms of demands of leading all of South Africa out of this rut.”
Motlanthe stopped well short of announcing a campaign to replace Zuma, but his comments are unusually frank for a senior member of the ANC — which for decades has prided itself on party discipline.
Many will see his comments as an opening shot of a leadership battle that will come to a climax at an ANC electoral conference in December. At a similar meeting five years ago Zuma effectively ended the presidency of Thabo Mbeki by launching a leadership challenge. Motlanthe is backed by the ANC’s Youth League and by key provincial branches but it is not clear whether he has enough backing to mount a successful challenge.