/ 20 December 2007

Zuma: ‘There is only one ANC’

“We cannot have a Zuma camp or a Mbeki camp; there is only one ANC. None among us is above the organisation or bigger than the ANC,” said new African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma on Thursday as the party’s 52nd national conference in Polokwane came to an end.

As expected, much of Zuma’s closing address focused on the need for unity in the ruling party. Divisions born before the conference between Zuma supporters and those of previous party president Thabo Mbeki must be healed, he said.

“The conference is now behind us and we will continue to work together to unite and build a stronger ANC,” Zuma, wearing a green, black and yellow ANC jacket, told delegates in the main conference marquee. The atmosphere differed markedly to that on Sunday, the first day of the conference, when Zuma and Mbeki factions sang opposing songs of support, and some delegates’ unruly behaviour surprised many.

“The occurrences of the first day of conference were indicative of internal problems that need to be sorted out without delay,” said Zuma. “A lesson we have learnt from this conference is that if the leadership fails to resolve issues, or to grasp the feelings of membership on issues that concern the movement and instead appears to perpetuate the problems, the membership takes over and asserts its authority in ways that we may not be comfortable with.”

He struck a conciliatory tone on Mbeki, calling him a comrade, friend and brother. “I must confess I never thought the two of us would one day compete for the same position in the ANC. However, contesting positions do not make us enemies.”

He addressed anxiety about the idea of two centres of power — in the Union Buildings and Luthuli House — by saying he and Mbeki will develop “smooth working relations” between the government and the ANC.

Regarding decisions taken at the conference, Zuma mentioned a resolution of 30% redistribution of land by 2014 and support for subsistence farmers as an important goal.

He also spoke of the high levels of crime in South Africa, which “need to be eliminated”. He called for the formation of street committees by ANC branches to help fight crime. “If we were able to defeat vigilantism and the apartheid system, what can stop us from defeating this ugly factor that has tainted our democracy?” he said to applause from the audience.

He further called for all ANC structures to participate in the fight against HIV and Aids, and raised the ANC Youth League and Women’s League for their work and support.

“The [youth] league remains consistent in pursuit of what they believe is right, in defence of the ANC and democracy,” he said.

The ANC Women’s League has asserted the rights of women in the ANC, and the party’s constitution has been amended to increase the quota of women in its structures from 30% to 50%.

On the tripartite alliance with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), he said there is a need for the continued existence of the alliance, in which the ANC is the shield and Cosatu the spear.