Zuma preaches unity, warns others

Unity was the order of the day when African National Congress president Jacob Zuma delivered his January 8 statement at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday. Zuma told the crowd of thousands that the unity of the party was ”paramount”, and warned those who threatened it.

Zuma, arriving under heavy guard, said the leadership battle between himself and President Thabo Mbeki had put unity in the party under pressure.

”We acknowledge that the past few months and years have placed the unity of the ANC under great strain,” Zuma said in his speech.

”We concede that the contestation of leadership positions, an important and necessary part of our democratic processes, served at time to fuel a perception of discord within our ranks,” he added.

He said those who threatened the unity of the movement would face ”very serious action”.

”ANC members outside government will not be allowed to undermine those in government. Equally, those deployed in government cannot undermine comrades working in the ANC. Should this happen, we will take very serious action,” Zuma said.

Deviating from his prepared speech, Zuma said if the discord continued ”you’ll have to remove me from the ANC”.

On HIV/Aids, he said the ANC and ”its government” should take the lead in the fight against the pandemic. He said efforts to combat the pandemic, should be intensified.

He also called on ANC branches to play ”a visible role” in providing care and support to people living with the disease.

On education, Zuma said that by 2009, 60% of schools should be declared no-fee schools. He said teachers were a critical element in the education of children and that there should be no abuse of pupils.

Teachers should not be neglected but ”promote[d]” by remunerating them — a suggestion which drew a huge cheer from the crowd.

Turning his attention to sport, Zuma congratulated new Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.

”We wish him all the best in managing this national treasure that brought back the World Cup last year,” said Zuma.

He said the party would work closely with the 2010 Soccer World Cup organising committee in the coming months to ”make this the most spectacular sports event our country has ever hosted”.

He wished Bafana Bafana well in their African Cup of Nations campaign in Ghana, saying: ”The instruction is simple, bring the cup back home.”

Many of the people who attended the ceremony — sporting Zuma T-shirts — had to sit on the pitch, because of a lack of space.

A supporter, Dolly Madena, said: ”He has the qualities of a president. He can resolve matters within the ANC. I do not doubt his leadership.”

Zuma finished off his speech with a rendition of his signature song Umshini Wami, with the help of his many supporters.

Among those who attended the ceremony were ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC Youth League’s Fikile Mbalula as well as Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan.

There was a heavy police and paramedic presence at the stadium, as well clowns, who entertained the crowds. – Sapa

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