He's central... he's the face of the ANC

The ANC is adamant that ruling party president Jacob Zuma will be its presidential candidate, even though he is having to divide his time between the high court and the hustings during the party’s toughest election campaign. Mmanaledi Mataboge asks housing minister and ANC national executive committee member Lindiwe Sisulu why.

Q: The ANC does not see any problem in having the party’s presidential candidate on the hustings and at the same time dealing with legal issues. If he is allowed to split his campaigning time like this, how important is he to the election campaign?

A: We took a decision in Polokwane that the president of the ANC will become the presidential candidate for the ANC.
So he is central, he is the face of the ANC. And we might not have any control over legal processes and I think perhaps we should allow them to proceed, but in the meantime, technically, constitutionally, he is innocent until he’s been proven guilty.

Q: His diary for February says he is going to court in Pietermaritzburg on the 4th of February attend the official opening of Parliament on the 6th. How is the ANC going to manage that considering that it consumes a lot of time for him and his legal team to work on court papers?

A: It’s not just the president of the ANC, we just all are very much on our feet running around. He can more than manage being in court on the 4th and at the opening of parliament on the 6th.

Q: Is the ANC not worried that having him as the face of the organisation might cost the party a huge amount of votes?

A: No, because I think what has become very important to all of those people who are dealing with the case is a definite test of just how far the constitution will live to its promises. He is innocent, until he’s been proven guilty. The ANC has decided that this is one test case that they’re going to see to the end.

Q: I understand his constitutional rights just like any citizen of South Africa, but is the party not worried that having a president who is accused of corruption will harm South Africa’s public image and if you’re not worried, why?

A: Because being charged and being found guilty are two different things: he has not been found guilty of corruption, that everybody is out there blowing their mouths about it, they have got to put it in their heads, he has not been found guilty of corruption, fullstop.

Q: His legal problems seem to overshadow his programme as the ANC president?

A: For you as the media. For any of the people who come to the rallies and who deal with it [legal problems] and who are members of the ANC, that is not a matter at all. In fact the very reason that we are so determined is because we want to prove a point that nobody’s rights would be jeopardized, for any reason. And we would like to appeal to the public: stop hyper ventilating on issues that actually undermine the constitutional right of any individual. He’s facing charges, but he’s not been found guilty.

Q: Does the ANC judge the attendance of rallies and the support that you got in East London as putting a rubberstamp on the support for Zuma’s candidacy for the president of the country?

A: No, we judge every other attendance there have been, we judge Polokwane as the voice of the people. Democracy is absolutely important to us, not because it agrees with us, even when it has gone against us. We observe and respect democracy. We respected the will of the people in Polokwane when they elected Zuma on a 60% vote. That’s the person they want to lead the ANC. They said so loud and clear. Since then at every rally there has been record turnout.

Q: If a legal solution is favoured for Mr Zuma’s problems, is the ANC in favour of him having his day in court?

A: That’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve allowed him to stand trial, he stood trial all along. The reason we are now supporting him to go to the Constitutional Court is precisely because we respect the courts. And there has never been time when he’s not turned up for court, when he has not sat in court and observed all the formalities of court.

Q: How is the ANC going to ensure that Zuma’s legal problems do not interfere with his responsibilities of running the country when he finally takes office as the president of the country?

A: President [Nelson] Mandela was taken to court by Louis Luyt and he had to juggle his calendar in order to go and appear before the court. If they want Jacob Zuma in court, we will present him to court. We will adjust his diary accordingly.

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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