Zuma is new ANC president

Jacob Zuma is the new president of the African National Congress. The announcement was greeted by an outpouring of joy and ecstatic cheering by ANC delegates at the party’s conference in Polokwane shortly before 9pm on Tuesday. Thabo Mbeki received 1 505 votes and Zuma 2 329.

A display of fireworks greeted Zuma’s ascension outside the main conference marquee and some delegates poured out of the tent and into the drizzling rain.

The position of deputy president went to current secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, who received 2 346 votes against the 1 444 votes gained by his opponent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

As the outcome of each voted position was announced, thousands of delegates blew on whistles, danced on tables and chairs, and sang and cheered—despite being asked to wait until after the announcement before applauding.

Each newly appointed leader took up a seat on the empty stage—from where the outgoing national executive committee (NEC) had earlier exited—to even louder cheering from the audience.

Maria Mabaso of KwaZulu-Natal, smiling broadly and cheering, told the Mail & Guardian Online: “I’m so happy. Everything is going to change because Zuma cares about the people.”

Emile Louis Enock of Kwazulu-Natal said: “I am very pleased. Trade unions will have a voice now.”

An elderly lady from the North West, who preferred to remain anonymous, simply said: “I cannot complain. I am a staunch ANC member.”

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete becomes national chairperson with 2 326 votes, edging out Joel Netshitenzhe who received 1 475 votes.

The position of secretary general went to Gwede Mantashe with 2 378 votes, beating Mosiuoa Lekota, who had 1 432 votes.

The post of treasurer general went to Mathews Phosa with 2 320 votes, beating deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka with 1 374 votes.

Thandi Modise, with 2 304 votes is the new deputy secretary general. She beat Thoko Didiza, who received 1 455 votes.

After these results were announced, the conference proceeded to accept nominations from the rest of the floor for the remaining 80 NEC members to be chosen. Voting for these members would start on Wednesday morning.

Also reacting to Zuma’s election, Andries Moagi from Limpopo, who had voted for Mbeki, said: “Part of the values of the ANC is to applaud, value and support whoever is in the ANC leadership. You don’t judge leaders as individuals but as a collective, and I will support the new collective of leaders.”

‘Polokwane bodes ill’

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) expressed dismay at Zuma’s election as president.

“This is a dismal day for the ANC and for South Africa,” DA leader Helen Zille said in a statement made available after the announcement. “It is an indictment on the ruling party that they could find no better candidate than Jacob Zuma to lead them.”

Zille said the Polokwane conference had exposed many of Zuma’s supporters as unruly and ill-disciplined populists who could not observe the basic norms of decent, democratic behaviour. “These are the people to whom Zuma owes his election as ANC president and he will have to return the favour. He will be accountable to them.”

Zille said the ANC will now be held hostage by populists and left-wingers, leaving a growing vacuum at the centre of South African politics.

Zuma had carefully avoided making any policy pronouncements during his campaign for the ANC presidency, she said. “But we know he has reactionary views on gender issues and that he has surrounded himself with dubious advisers. This is unlikely to change.”

She added: “If ANC members behave in this appalling way during their own electoral conference, what can we expect from them when the ANC is challenged for power at the polls in an open election for government of the country?

“Polokwane bodes ill for the future. It is now essential that all fair-minded democrats stand together to prevent the Zuma-fication of the ANC becoming the Zuma-fication of South Africa.”

‘Historic victory’

The election of Zuma as ANC president is of historic importance, former state president FW de Klerk.

“The decision is of historic importance to South Africa since it will have a major impact on the leadership of the country for the next five to 12 years,” De Klerk said a statement. “The key to success will be our ability to abide by the Constitution and the national accord that it represents.”

He welcomed a commitment that Zuma made last week to “uphold our Constitution and ensure that organs of state do not abuse our rights” and voiced agreement with a statement by Zuma that some should not have more rights than others in South Africa.

Zuma’s undertaking to maintain the country’s macro-economic policies was also to be welcomed.

De Klerk added: “Mbeki’s place in history is assured: it rests firmly on 13 years of economic and social progress; the consolidation of our constitutional democracy and the promotion of peace, unity and human dignity in Africa.”

‘Witch-hunt’

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) was on Tuesday night quick to call for the criminal investigation regarding Zuma to be abandoned.

“We believe the National Prosecuting Authority’s [NPA] matter against Zuma is a witch-hunt,” said Sanco national organising secretary Sello Molefe. “Today the NPA has this story; tomorrow they have a totally new one.”

Zuma still faces the possibility of the NPA taking him back to court on corruption charges.

The charges, thrown out of court last year without a hearing, centre on his relationship with businessman and fraud convict Schabir Shaik, who was found guilty in 2005 of soliciting an arms-company bribe for Zuma and jailed for an effective 15 years.

President Thabo Mbeki sacked Zuma as deputy president of the country soon after the Shaik verdict.

‘Privilege and responsibility’

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) extended its congratulations to Zuma.

“It is a great privilege and responsibility to lead the organisation once led by the likes of Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela,” said IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The IFP knows the tasks ahead of Zuma are “enormous” and it wishes him well, Buthelezi said in a statement.

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