ANCYL opposed to early Mbeki exit

While welcoming the outcome of Tuesday night’s election of Jacob Zuma as African National Congress (ANC) leader, the ANC Youth League has come out against the notion of President Thabo Mbeki stepping down as the country’s president before 2009.

Only those not respecting the rules of the ANC would make such demands, the league’s president, Fikile Mbalula, told a press briefing at the party’s national conference in Polokwane on Wednesday. “We are not anarchists.
The president must continue to play the role of leader and his experience must continue to be felt within the party.”

He said the league will continue to “manage” relations between the party and the state until 2009.

Mbalula said “no major deviations” are expected from the resolutions the ANC made at its policy conference in June and those that will emerge from the Polokwane conference. This includes reflections on the “two centres of power”, free education, the ANC president’s term of office, gender parity and black economic empowerment.

When asked what would happen should Zuma be charged with corruption, Mbalula said that the ANC’s new president is “innocent until proven guilty”.

Welcoming the outcome of Tuesday’s election, Mbalula called for unity in the ANC and said the interests of the movement must be placed before those of individuals. “We must defeat personal cult, vindictiveness, falsehood and slander among and about each other,” he said.

He provoked laughter from journalists when he said: “Mbeki was made by the youth league and was removed by the youth league. That is how strong the youth league is.”

He responded to fears of Zuma’s election causing market jitters by saying that “nobody has died in South Africa”, adding: “Nothing has changed [on the JSE]. South Africa is still a beautiful country.”

On the future of the tripartite alliance and conflicting statements that have emerged from its members, Mbalula said the three partners agree on the need for unity.

In his organisational report presented earlier at the conference, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe had referred to the alliance between the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the ANC as a “house divided”.

Said Mbalula: “There’s a general agreement within all structures that we unite the alliance.” He called for “open engagement” between the three.

He added: “We expect our leadership to rise above petty tendencies and address the question of the rift [within the ANC, between Zuma and Mbeki camps].”

ANC Youth League spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said: “We’ve got to harness our differences so that [we] advance our overall goal of uniting the alliance.”

Kodwa also responded to speculation that Zuma’s election to the ANC’s top post could see Mbalula promoted to a juicy government post. If this did happen, he said, it could not be considered a reward for Mbalula’s support for Zuma. “So, tomorrow, if there’s any deployment of Mbalula, [it can] not be interpreted as payback.”

No revenge

Zuma’s victory should not be a signal for revenge or retribution, the party’s alliance partners said on Wednesday in a separate press briefing at the national conference.

“This is not a moment for triumphalism or factional revenge,” SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande said in Polokwane. “These inclinations will simply plunge us into another cycle of inward-focused manoeuvring. Let us devote our energies to uniting around the tasks of transformation.”

His words were echoed by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who said Cosatu appeals to all members of the ANC and its alliance partners to accept the outcome of the democratic process. The alliance leadership cannot afford retribution or vengeance.

“This is a historic moment in our movement and our country,” he said. “We look forward to working closely together to take forward the national democratic revolution and transform the lives of all South Africans.”

Vavi said the leadership’s priority has to be to make South Africa’s second 10 years of democracy a decade for the workers and the poor.

Both the SACP and Cosatu backed Zuma in the contest for the ANC presidency.

Nzimande said the SACP believes the electoral renewal of the ANC leadership provides a platform on which to rebuild the tripartite alliance, which has come under increasing pressure in recent years. “For too long intra-alliance relationships have been marked by recriminations and stand-offs.”

He said the SACP pledges to be a loyal and reliable ally. It is critical to reaffirm the ANC’s “leading role” in developing broad strategic policy perspectives “without, of course, seeking to micro-manage government”.

The conference has provided a platform for a significant renewal and advance of “our progressive movement”.

Silent Zuma

Meanwhile, Zuma treated the media to no more than an enigmatic smile as he was mobbed when he left the presidential suite at the party’s conference in Polokwane on Wednesday.

He maintained a steadfast silence as he emerged after lunch, after meeting and greeting his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe; national chairperson Baleka Mbete; and secretary general Thoko Didiza.

Photographers running after him cringed with embarrassment when they realised they were following him to the toilet. When he returned, he was begged repeatedly for comment, but he kept up the silence he has maintained since he was elected on Tuesday night.

“Mr Zuma, Mr Zuma, please ... how do you feel, tell us anything, just one comment,” called a reporter.

Zuma, flanked by his bodyguards who at time had to push people away, started laughing, but still would not say anything. He took off his hat as he got into his chauffeur-driven, official black BMW with his treasurer general, Mathews Phosa, and they sped away.

Zuma is expected to address the closing session of the conference on Thursday. A planned media briefing for Wednesday was cancelled on the grounds that Zuma should address the party’s members first.

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