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19 Apr 2009 17:00
With the reassurance that “the country is in safe hands and nothing will ever go wrong”, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma on Sunday spoke his last word in the long and intense election campaign.
Former president Nelson Mandela also attended the rally, and Zuma was perched next to him when the veteran leader was driven to the stage in a golf cart. Several ANC leaders, including Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile, helped the frail Madiba on to the stage.
Zuma was at pains to explain that Mandela was at the rally of his own free will.
‘He has asked to be part of the Siyanqoba rally today,” Zuma said.
Madiba did not address the rally and a pre-recorded video message from him was played instead.
Zuma and Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, were criticised previously for taking Madiba to a rally in the Eastern Cape, which Madiba’s aides claimed was done without their knowledge.
At the rally on Sunday, Zuma said: ‘As we end the campaign, we extend our sincerest gratitude to our Isithwalandwe and icon, President Nelson Mandela, who instructed the ANC president to organise an election rally in the Eastern Cape for him to attend.
Former president Thabo Mbeki was nowhere to be seen, while rumours circulated he would be attending a Congress of the People rally in the Eastern Cape. He did not attend either of the rallies.
Departing from his prepared speech, Zuma assured the country there was no need for concern when the new administration took charge.
‘There is nothing in the Constitution that says a massive majority for a ruling party is a bad thing. The country is in safe hands and nothing can go wrong,” he told the crowd.
At the Siyanqoba (We are winning) rally in Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg, Zuma assured the 60 000 supporters that the ANC had never abused its two-thirds majority and had no plans to do so.
In a colourful event attended by senior leaders of the party, including President Kgalema Motlanthe, Zuma promised better lives to workers, teachers, children and the unemployed.
He also announced a toll-free hotline that citizens could use to report their concerns and suggestions.
He also announced the establishment of a planning commission, based in the presidency, that would ensure better planning and monitoring of government business.
‘Through careful planning and monitoring, we will be able to avoid overspending, under-spending and the misuse of government funds through fruitless expenditure and other untoward behaviour.”
He promised a better education system, an increase in the quality of teaching and said the ANC would ‘ensure that learning is taking place” and that pupils received their textbooks.
Money would be made available to ‘those who want to enter higher education” and health facilities would be upgraded while the waiting times in hospitals would be reduced and medicines would be made available.
Without going into detail, Zuma pledged that courts would work better, criminals would ‘remain behind bars” and the causes of crime would be tackled.
Police officers would also receive better training and salaries.
Zuma, who has recently been cleared of corruption charges, pledged that ‘no individual in a position of responsibility should enrich themselves with resources that rightly belong to the people”.
Tender processes would be more transparent and ‘less open to manipulation”, he said.
The goal of land reform would be to ‘feed the nation” while he pledged to ensure new farmers received technical and financial support.
Although reports of an extension of the grant system suggested the system would become more inclusive, Zuma only promised a continuation of the grants that were already on offer.
‘The grants remain the most effective government poverty alleviation mechanism to date.”
He also promised support to the manufacturing, mining, tourism and agriculture sectors of the economy.
In an attempt to curb job losses the new administration planned to undertake the largest programme of public investment in infrastructure in the history of the country.
‘We will expand and improve railways, public transport, ports, dams, housing, telecommunications and energy generation.”
Referring to his recent comments about the Constitutional court judges—saying the judges were not “gods”—Zuma was at pains to set the record straight.
‘[The ANC] has never tried to subvert or ignore the ruling of the Constitutional Court or any other court or constitutional structure. We will always uphold, defend, promote and protect the Constitution of our country and all our democratic institutions.”
He warned however that the judiciary was not exempt from transformation.
‘We reiterate, that like all institutions, the judiciary is also expected to undergo transformation. When we comment on the pace of transformation in the judiciary, it is not because we want to infringe on its independence, but seek faster action.”
Despite recently laying defamation charges against the Guardian, Zuma insisted his government would not infringe on press freedom.
‘We will continue to protect, defend and promote media freedom as we have always done. However, we reiterate that the media, like all other institutions, must be transformed. Like all institutions in our country, it must strive to reflect South African society in terms of ownership, staffing, gender and content. Together as a nation, we must work to build a media that is free, diverse, critical and independent ... a media that can inform, entertain and empower all our people.”
Read more from Mandy Rossouw
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