All eyes on Zuma at ANC anniversary

Newly-elected African National Congress president Jacob Zuma will make his first keynote speech on Saturday, since taking over the party leadership from President Thabo Mbeki.

His speech will form part of celebrations for the 96th anniversary of the party.

The rally—expected to be attended by about 20 000 supporters—will take place at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria.

While the ANC’s “January 8” statement normally focuses on the party’s priorities for the year ahead, it is the relationship between Zuma and Mbeki—following their bitter election battle last year—that will be closely watched.

Attention is expected to be given to the so-called “two centres of power” that came about when Zuma became ANC president and Mbeki remained President of the country.

Political analyst with the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, Professor Steven Friedman, said Zuma’s speech was important because it may throw light on his opinion on unity within the party.

“The election battle [last year] was not about policy -‒ it was about leadership and how the ANC should be led,” Friedman said.

Earlier this week the party’s National Executive Committee confirmed that Zuma would be its candidate for the 2009 election.

“There is a range of policy which you cannot give equal attention to—you have to set priorities,” Friedman said.

On Friday, Jacob Zuma used his first online newsletter as president of the party to reject suggestions that the party was divided, and commit it to a culture of open debate.

“We reiterate that the ANC is not divided. There are no fundamental policy differences among any members or leaders of the ANC,” he said in the newsletter, posted on the party’s website.

“The vibrant debate that is sometimes misconstrued as division is merely differences of opinion on the implementation of our programme of action.

“It is a healthy phenomenon which keeps all of us on our toes.” - Sapa



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