Tuesday, September 21, 2010

South African President Zuma Straight Up, With No Frills at ANC Leadership Conference in Durban

Zuma straight up, with no frills


It was a Jacob Zuma we haven't seen in a while, if ever.

Speaking at the African National Congress national general council (NGC) on Monday, ANC president Zuma said everything that needed to be said about issues that have been bothering the party for a while, much to the surprise of those who are not his inner circle.

There was a hint of "I told you so" among some of Zuma's close advisers in the leadership of the ANC, while others admitted they were taken aback by Zuma's brazenness in addressing the issues around the ANC Youth League, the alliance and general misbehaviour by leaders of the movement.

It was, however, anything but a triumphant Zuma who took to the stage mid-morning to address the more than 3 000 delegates and guests. The ovation he received from the crowd was clearly out of duty more than enthusiasm, and he neglected to crack a joke, which ordinarily would have diffused tensions.

Zuma began his speech at the place where he started his presidential campaign: the NGC held in Tshwane in 2005. This is where the ANC delegates showed former president Thabo Mbeki the middle finger and insisted that Zuma should remain as deputy president of the party, even though he had been fired as the second-in-charge of the country.

Mbeki's recall

History books will record that event as the beginning of the rise of Zuma, and the man himself clearly has acute memories of this event. The debates and discussions became explosive as branches defended their authority, which they felt had been eroded and undermined by the leadership.

A Cabinet minister told the Mail & Guardian on Monday that it is the first time Zuma had given ANC delegates an opportunity to reflect on that chaotic NGC. "But then I realised he had to do it, he had to put everything before us," the minister said.

Zuma's trip down memory lane included the ANC policy conference in June 2007 and the watershed Polokwane conference in December that year.

He also spoke frankly about the recall of Mbeki, saying it was one of the most difficult political decisions the organisation had to take.

While talking, Zuma remained with his head bowed, clearly concentrating to get every word right. There were no interjections from the crowd either, and the first time they applauded was when he talked of the formation of the Congress of the People (Cope). In the recent past nothing had united the ANC like the opposition against Cope, and Zuma used this to his advantage.

He threw in a quote from former president Nelson Mandela about unity and tried his hand at some Shakespeare, but it was clear this was not a speech to impress delegates; this was a speech to tell it as it is, with no detours or vague insinuations. This was Zuma straight up, with no frills.

He even resisted irking the Christian community again, and said the ANC will rule for a very long time, and not the usual until Jesus comes.

Slowly the frostiness in the crowd started to thaw, and the biggest applause came when Zuma took ANC Youth League president Julius Malema to task: juniors must respect seniors. He elaborated and made it clear that he was not talking about age groups, but referring to the hierarchy of structures in the ANC -- the youth league is junior, the national leadership is senior.

The look on Malema's face said even he managed to do the maths.

Jovial Zuma

There was also no pussyfooting around alliance relations: "We [will] engage Cosatu after this NGC to remind one another of the role of the alliance and who we are as components."

He squashed any hope that Cosatu might have of an electoral pact. "An electoral pact is to miss the point with regard to the significance of this alliance."

Then the hard part was over and the more jovial Zuma emerged. He took a swig of water for the first time during his speech and, with a wide smile, he had his people back on his side.

Speeches like that come at a price. Malema was so upset about the attack against him that he didn't participate in the singing after the speech. Vavi was a little more grown-up about it, but the fact remains they've been put in their places, and that is not somewhere they like to be.

For the first time Zuma said what he liked, and hopefully he has enough brazenness left to deal with the fallout that comes with such bravery.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-09-20-zuma-straight-up-with-no-frills

Winnie consoles Malema after dressing down

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA Sep 20 2010 14:37

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema was consoled by veteran of the women's league Winnie Madikizela-Mandela after his youth wing was given a dressing down by party president Jacob Zuma at its national general council in Durban on Monday.

"Every parent is allowed to talk to their children," she said as she held her arm around Malema, head bowed as he listened.

"Every organisation is like a parent. It does happen," said Madikizela-Mandela after Zuma opened the conference by calling for greater "revolutionary discipline".

Zuma earlier told the conference: "We have noted some regrettable incidents, particularly relating to the ANC Youth League conference, which are unacceptable and need to be dealt with."

After the congress, the party's leadership would work with the league "intensively" to deal with these organisational problems, he said.

When asked for comment on Zuma's speech, Malema said he did not speak to journalists. League secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo said she would not comment because the speech would be discussed during the conference.

Dressed in a cobalt blue coat, Madikizela-Mandela, often referred to as the "mother of the nation", was mobbed by international journalists who pushed cameras close to her face and fired questions at her as she made her way to the lunch tent.

One reporter took the opportunity to ask for comment on the proposed media appeals tribunal, to which she replied: "My views are my views, but I like Al-Jazeera."

After lunch, leaders and delegates were expected to hold closed-door discussions.

In the past Madikizela-Mandela has been criticised over a trip abroad, when she was deputy arts and culture minister, and when she disrupted an ANC programme by walking on to a stage to embrace former president Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki brushed her off on that widely televised occasion.

Malema himself has had to answer to the parent body for criticism directed at its leadership.

Earlier this year, an ANC disciplinary committee found Malema guilty of "behaving in such a way as to provoke serious divisions or a break-down of unity in the organisation" and for unfavourably comparing President Jacob Zuma to Mbeki.

Malema pleaded guilty to a charge of bringing the party into disrepute. He was instructed to make a public apology to Zuma, the ANC and the public in general, to attend anger management classes and the ANC's political school, and was fined R10 000, which was to go to a youth development charity.

The league wants the judgement to be nullified.

Vavi 'impressed'

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said he was "really very impressed" with Zuma's speech.

"It is unmistakably pro-poor and pro-growth path. I'm really very impressed," Vavi told reporters.

He said the Congress of South African Trade Unions had noted criticism about the manner in which some of its members behaved during the public-sector strike. Cosatu protesters openly bad-mouthed the ANC-led government.

Vavi said he expected the criticism from Zuma. He said he would have liked Zuma to say more on tenders, challenges in HIV/Aids programmes and education.

Zuma puts lid on mine debate

Zuma meanwhile said the conference was not the place to discuss new policies.

"We must not listen to the media and other people who say we are coming here to discuss new policies," he said, deviating from his prepared political report.

He said the conference was aimed at reviewing progress on resolutions taken at the party's conference in Polokwane in 2007.

The NGC currently under way must not be treated as a policy conference, Zuma said.

SA Communist Party deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said he believed Zuma was referring to the nationalisation of mines when he spoke about steering clear of new policies.

Cronin said nationalisation in general had to be addressed in the broader context of the South African economy.

A full debate was needed on how to maximise South Africa's natural resources for the benefit of all South Africans and nationalisation was a small part of this debate, said Cronin.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu confirmed that nationalisation was not part of the Polokwane resolutions which had to be reviewed at the current gathering.

He said it would have to go through internal ANC processes first and then be subjected to a debate at the party's next policy conference and would only be made a resolution at the national conference.

ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu declined to comment, saying the matter would be debated internally. - Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-09-20-winnie-consoles-malema-after-dressing-down

Zuma cracks whip on succession debate

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA Sep 20 2010 11:24

It was time for the ANC to act against those prematurely mobilising and lobbying for succession, party president Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

"Mobilising and lobbying for succession so early also gives the wrong impression that the ANC comprises of groups of people who are pre-occupied with fighting for influential positions to advance personal interests instead of advancing the programme of the organisation," Zuma told delegates at the midterm policy review conference in Durban.

"It is clear that the time has come for the organisation to act. We must take a decision that those who engage in such activities are in fact undermining the organisation and its work and at worst, are undermining the unity of the organisation.

"Action must be taken against them."

Zuma said a decision was taken by the national executive committee in May to ban public spats and discussions of the 2012 succession and related leadership preferences.

The African National Congress' top leadership body took the decision to strengthen unity, prevent confusion and avoid undermining the confidence of the membership in their current leadership.

The ANC Youth League had recently come out in support of its former president, Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to replace current ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe at the next elective conference in 2012.

At the ANCYL's own national general council last month, songs were sung in support of Mbalula and delegates held placards favouring him over Mantashe.

Zuma said action would also be taken against members of the ANC who continued to attack others publicly and he expressed concern about "labelling" and "other divisive tendencies that are also creeping in".

'Dangerous method of lobbying'

"For example, we have always said the ANC is a broad church but suddenly, there are now people who are said to be about, 'anti-Communist' and others who are 'anti-nationalist'."

Zuma said a new "dangerous method of lobbying" had emerged where people use money to buy support.

He slammed the "abuse of lobbying" which had been a long-standing democratic practice in the ANC.

"It cannot and should not take the form of an instruction on who to vote for, and thereby creating a culture of despising the will of the ANC branch members in good standing, in the manner that the
'slate' method is doing.

"This certainly corrupts the democratic processes of the ANC," he said.

The "slate method" he referred to was when leadership was decided upon according to lists of members aligned to certain factions. ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and chairperson Baleka Mbete have also spoken out against the method.

Both leaders were elected on the Zuma slate at the ANC's 2007 national conference.

Alliance not dying

The ANC's alliance with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Communist Party was not about to die, Zuma said.

"All the bold headlines about the imminent death of the alliance are a waste of time and ink because the alliance will live for a long time to come," he said.

Zuma said the recent strike by public servants required "serious introspection" from individual alliance partners and the alliance collectively.

But, he said the party had decided to engage with Cosatu to evaluate the strike.

"It would be wrong if we do not talk about some of the things that have characterised the recent strike which are alien to the history of the workers' struggle and the congress movement, and also to deal with the serious distortion of the history, mission, and character of the ANC that we witnessed during the strike."

'ANC has always fought on the side of the workers'

Zuma said some of the statements made by striking workers and some in the leadership of Cosatu had suggested the ANC had abandoned the struggle of the workers and the poor.

"The ANC has always fought on the side of the workers and will continue to do so. As far as we are concerned, there is no ambiguity about our being in alliance with Cosatu."

He said: "It is important comrades that we should not play around with this alliance."

Zuma said however that the right to strike should never be used to undermine the rights of other people.

"We must win over people to join the strike out of political consciousness and sympathy, and not through violence and intimidation and destruction of property."

He said the alliance "... will live for a long time to come".

Zuma also said a new growth path had to be set for the country. It had to recognise that, on the one hand, there had been economic growth for a sustained period since the advent of democracy, however on the other, poverty still remained high and inequalities were worsening.

The economic downturn saw the loss of over a million jobs in the country and job losses were continuing despite economic growth. This worsened the unacceptably high rate of joblessness.

"The party's research had shown that the economy had the potential to create employment through large scale expansion in infrastructure in mining, agriculture and construction." - Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-09-20-zuma-cracks-whip-on-succession-debate

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