His office on Friday confirmed he won’t be attending the youth day celebrations as he was leaving for Mexico to attend the G20 leaders summit, which starts on Monday.
Instead, the minister in the presidency for performance and monitoring, Collins Chabane, will deliver the keynote address on Zuma’s behalf. Chabane will be joined by his deputy Obed Bapela, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet, and provincial ANC leadership.
Motlanthe was not asked to replace Zuma at the celebrations. The Mail & Guardianhas been reliably informed that provincial ANC leaders have been told not to provide the platform for any of Zuma’s potential presidential challengers at the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in December.
The Eastern Cape is a highly contested region of the ANC and would most likely be kingmakers in who becomes ANC president in Mangaung. Motlanthe and Human Settlement Minister Tokyo Sexwale, are currently enjoying widespread support from the majority of the regions, including OR Tambo, Amathole, Alfred Nzo and Nelson Mandela Bay, where the youth day rally takes place on Saturday.
National Youth Development Agency chief Steven Ngobeni told the M&Gon Friday that about 16 000 youth were expected to attend the celebration. This would not the first time Zuma misses the national youth day commemoration.
Last year, he walked into a near empty Orlando Stadium, where he was billed to deliver the keynote address. Zuma, who chose to be at the ANC Youth League’s national conference, where Malema was re-elected unopposed, arrived three and half hours late at the stadium.
Relations between Zuma and the ANC’s youth wing has soured over the past months, following the ANC’s decision to fire Malema and suspend youth league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa and spokesperson Floyd Shivambu. The ANC’s special NEC meeting this week took a decision not to review Malemaand youth league case.
Some within the party believe the decision to expel Malema and suspend other youth league officials, was politically motivated. The youth league, under Malema’s leadership, had made it clear it wanted Zuma to be replaced by his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe. It also wants Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to take over from ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Meanwhile in what appears to be a direct challenge to Zuma, Motlanthe questioned the concept of the second transition, asking where it was coming from and where it was going. Zuma has been using the second transition document as a campaigning ticket for his re-election. The second transition document has been rejected by a number of ANC structures,including Gauteng and Limpopo for lacking clarity and a concrete vision. Cosatu’s powerful health and education union, Nehawu, has also rejected the second transition documents.