Zuma says ANC must 'maintain unity'

Former deputy president Jacob Zuma pleaded with the youth on Thursday not to divide the African National Congress (ANC) by criticising President Thabo Mbeki for sacking him.

“Phansi ngo Mbeki. Phambili ngo Zuma,” [Down with Mbeki. Up with Zuma] the crowd chanted earlier as Zuma took a lap of honour around Nelspruit’s packed Matsulu stadium during a youth day rally on Thursday.

“We must not be seen to be dividing the leadership of the ANC,” said Zuma in a departure from his prepared speech.

“In no way, in the meetings of the ANC, we as the ANC, can sing badly about our president.
There are channels in the movement.

“If we are not happy with whatever the ANC does, or its leadership [does], let us use these channels.

“If I was wrong as a leader I think the organisation has the right to call me to discuss the matter rather than to sing about the leader.

“I think that will be a recipe for disaster. We must maintain unity,” he said.

Zuma was implicated in corruption in the Durban High court trial of his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik by Judge Hilary Squires.

Shaik was found guilty on two counts of corruption and one of fraud.

Zuma has since been “released” from his duties as deputy president and has handed in his resignation as a member of Parliament.

His speech on Thursday was his first public address since his dismissal from the government.

Zuma said the issue about his conduct and the National Prosecuting Authority was a question of constitutional rights that had to be accorded every South African citizen.

“There is no-one to be found guilty when he has not been taken to any institution or court.

“I have been extremely dealt with, unfairly, by my own democracy. I said I have been tried and convicted by the media and indeed convicted by a judge in absentia. It is extremely unfair,” he said.

“I’m clear as anything in my conscience that I have committed no crime,” Zuma continued.

“In the whole history of my participation in the ANC since I was a youth ... [I have] handled most sensitive things and huge sums of money. Not a penny was ever lost.

“I was never corrupt and I will never be corrupt. If I was treated fairly by those who had suspicions, I would have explained to them properly five years ago,” he said adding that the authorities had not questioned him.

Heavily armed policemen and bodyguards surrounded Zuma as he walked around the stadium accompanied by Mpumalanga premier Thabang Makwetla and ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula.

Zuma was introduced to the crowd as the deputy president of the ANC.

“Viva Gedleyihlekisa. Viva,” the programme director said, referring to Zuma by his middle name, going on to chant: “Hundred percent Jacob Zuma. Hundred percent,” an ANCYL slogan coined in its campaign in support of Zuma.

Mbalula said the young people of South Africa were unapologetic in acknowledging Zuma as their “leader ... hero ... father”.

Their support of Zuma should not be misconstrued as being against Mbeki, as both the president of the ANC and of the country.

“We support and we salute the leadership of our revolution. We must not be misled and be misguided and sing songs that undermine [our] own leadership,” he said. - Sapa