President Jacob Zuma has defended controversial ANC Youth League president Julius Malema again, saying he will not be forced into shouting him down.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Zuma said: “I haven’t said that he is right but I’ve said he has a right to raise issues. If we stop Malema you would say that apartheid has come back.
“People must differentiate between private views and policy. I had to clarify that in the UK last week on nationalisation of mines. There is no president of the youth league who can just declare policy. Even the president of the ANC can’t do that.”
Asked why he had not expressed his own views on the subject and why he did not make it clear that he disagreed with Malema, Zuma said: “I have done so. I have said this is not government policy. I have said many a time that we speak to Julius.
“People want us to shout him down. Why must we do that? Even the late youth league president [Peter Mokaba] used to sing One Farmer, One Bullet. Even Madiba, who is today an icon, was one of the most vocal youth league [leaders].”
‘Our business is to help them mature’
In an apparent vote of support for the police deputy minister, Fikile Mbalula, who is at the centre of a campaign to oust ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, Zuma pointed out how Mbalula had grown since his firebrand days as youth league leader.
“Mbalula used to be very vocal some time ago but you no longer hear from him. Our business is to help them mature.”
Malema, he insisted, had extraordinary leadership qualities. “When I accompanied him to Limpopo to open a church for which he had fundraised, I said there’s a leader in him for the future; a man who cares about people and who can take initiative.
“Julius is not a big deal. People can’t have the same style. To us there is no crisis.”
Zuma confirmed that Malema had reported to him his concerns that the South African Revenue Service (Sars) was targeting him and other Zuma supporters.
But Zuma said Malema spoke to him “politically” and did not necessarily expect action from him.
“He can’t lay charges with me. I am not a police station.”
Zuma will appeal again this weekend at the national executive committee meeting for ANC members to stop talking about the 2012 ANC succession race. The ANC has been racked by fresh divisions since Malema and his supporters made it clear that they wanted Mantashe removed at the 2012 centenary conference of the party.
Malema repeated the call this week without mentioning Mantashe by name when he said there is one member of the top six who has isolated himself.
Zuma said he had made the point in the ANC national executive committee (NEC) that it was too early to talk of 2012.
“I will this weekend once again make that point. It is uncalled for. It can’t be right.”
Taking rumours with a pinch of salt
Amid conspiracy theories and anxious rumours among the ANC leadership, affiliates of Cosatu have said they are aware of a plot to remove Zuma as ANC president at the national general council (NGC) in September. But Zuma said he would not take the rumours seriously because he did not know where they came from.
“I don’t know how concrete that information is. I don’t need to react to every information that is spread about me. The NGC is not an electing thing. It does not deal with leadership.”
The last NGC in 2005 laid the foundation for the removal of then-president Thabo Mbeki. It was there that ANC members first protested against the firing of Zuma by Mbeki and started a fight-back campaign that resulted in his elevation as president two years later.
Disagreements over economic policy have troubled the tripartite alliance in recent weeks, with Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi sharply critical of the 2010 budget and president S’dumo Dlamini calling for the axing of Zuma’s advisers.
Zuma insisted that there was no major fallout with Cosatu and the SACP.
“This is not a difficult thing. The issue with the party [SACP] started when Malema said we should nationalise mines and at the special conference of the SACP he was booed. It is not as if things are falling apart.”
He said tensions with Cosatu only emerged when the trade union federation criticised the budget and the State of the Nation address.
Cosatu had to look after working-class interests but “the ANC has to look after the interests of all the classes”.
The ANC would discuss with Cosatu the subsidising of young people to enter the job market, which the trade union feels could lead to a two-tier labour system.
He said there was debate about whether Cosatu’s call for lifestyle audits, would add value: “There is no crisis,” Zuma insisted.
When are we going to start seeing the results of your reorganisation of government — in health, in education, in crime?
The results are there. If you went to Baragwanath Hospital today, it’s a totally different hospital. I can even give you a date in April, where we launch insofar as HIV and Aids [are concerned]. I can count a number of other things. We’ve, for example, introduced the Growth Path Policy in terms of the economy. We’ve put aside R840-billion for infrastructure, which is crucial. It’s not something we are saying we’re going to do, it’s there.
Are all your ministers in Cabinet now singing off the same songsheet? There have been quite public disputes over Transnet, for example, or economic policy.
That’s why you hear nothing now in public [any more]. That must tell you that there is harmony. I don’t think you could have avoided that kind of thing as people come in and try to put their feet on the ground. But we can’t hear that any more, because we have not just been sitting, we’ve been trying to harmonise those things. At that time, people were still saying, which [function] goes where. But now by law this belongs here, this belongs there.
So should we expect, or not, a bit of a reshuffle of people in the next few months?
People love to spread rumours. I’m sure reshuffles are caused by certain reasons, and I’m sure if it came to the point it would come. I’ve heard rumours. I said where do they emanate from? I thought rumours must emanate from the person who must be reshuffled. I’m sure they’re just rumours.
Do you think we need more enforcement capacity to deal with corruption, maybe new legislation?
No. I think we do have a lot of apparatus to deal with this. It’s a question of changing the way of doing things within those. For example, we have talked about the need to shorten the distance between finding corruption and acting on it. We have talked about the establishment of this ministerial committee, which must come with very specific recommendations.
The minister of finance talked about what we are going to do with regards to tender processes. Certainly we need to change how they are done. It may not at this point in time need legislation. We’ve said, for example, we’re going to look at politicians, how much [their involvement in tenders] brings about problems.
Transparency is part of fighting corruption. Can you explain why you didn’t declare your assets, which seems to send a signal about your attitude as a leader?
I’m sure [my attorney] Mike Hulley is dealing with it today and I’m sure he’s going to be able to address those matters. We’ve been in consultation with the secretary of the Cabinet where the declarations are done and I’m sure today they will be submitted. So there’s no one who’s running away from it. I’ve been a deputy president of this government for a long time. I did my declaration at the time.
You may now have more harmony in government, but there is real discord in the ANC-SACP-Cosatu alliance. How do you plan to deal with that?
I don’t think it is a difficult thing. I’m sure if you took the [communist] party, the debate started when the president of the ANC Youth League talked about nationalisation and some people in the party responded. That then led to a special conference of the party, where Malema was booed. It doesn’t suggest that the organisation is falling apart.
With regard to Cosatu, it was only when there was the State of the Nation address as well as the budget that Cosatu said “we are not happy”. We are meeting them to deal with those matters. Of course [Cosatu] went further, to complain about corruption. We are all agreed about corruption, we are all fighting corruption. Cosatu added the [lifestyle] audit. People [are asking], “What does it mean?” In Parliament all public representatives declare their interests. In the broader society there is Sars which knows what everybody is doing in terms of business, how they earn their money.
[The concern] is that people are talking with anger and fury. That is part of what politicians at times do. But it doesn’t suggest the alliance can’t hold.
Isn’t it that people want to hear from you as president, for example, on Julius Malema, ‘This is what he says, and he’s entitled to it, but I personally think he is wrong?”
But I’ve said so. I’ve said so. There’s no policy o nationalisation in the ANC. In the ANC if we had to establish policy, there’s a process. I haven’t said that Malema is right but I’ve said Malema has a right to raise issues in this democratic country.
At times people don’t understand the culture of the alliance, that people can raise things there. We should be saying here are people who are practising real democracy.
Sometimes it seems like you let everyone else debate and you let them say what they think but we don’t know what you think. It’s almost as if you are hamstrung by your position.
No, no. That is the perception that people have, [but] if you know the policy of the ANC, you don’t even have to ask the president, you know it. I think all we want to see is just this “gladiation”, that these two must be fighting. The president [cannot] answer to every member who raises their views here and there.
Are you able to rise above the constant discussion about your personal life, to walk into a meeting with credibility, to say “I’m still going to lead” while all these things that are sensitive for you are being discussed?
Well, I always lived with the media. You can’t be looking this way and that way because of things that are reported. You have got a task that is given to you; for example, my task at the moment is not just only to lead the ANC but to lead the government.
If I were to look at what people say about me, that one day one of my trousers was short, the other one was long, and I must now stop everything to concentrate on that, you cannot concentrate on a bigger task. I believe in the bigger picture, I’ve always looked at the bigger picture.
Bearing in mind all of these challenges, what qualities are required of a leader?
I think what is important if you are the president is to be able to pull your team together and be able to identify the objectives, the manner in which you want to reach at the objective, and if you are able to do so.
For example, becoming the president of the country, to me it became clear that 15 years [into democracy], there is one issue that has been a difficult: delivery. We cannot complete 20 years and still have the same problem. We’ve got to say, what else can we do better? We’ve got to learn from what has happened.
I also believe in working in a collective … I think it’s one of the most important things because you can then gain ideas from your colleagues about what needs to be done. But you must be able to take a decision.
What if people within your collective, within the alliance, such as Zwelinzima Vavi for example, are disappointed, and very loud about their disappointment?
If we thought that the trade union movement [should never] be disappointed we would be creating a utopia. They’ve got very specific interests that relate to workers and they’ve got to fight to defend their space.
If you are talking about the ANC and the government, you are dealing with an organisation that is looking at the country with every other interest, and these will never be the same [as those of workers]. What people should be appreciating is that the alliance is able to balance these.
Do we need to become more aggressive in finding space for the unemployed, even if it seems to hurt the interests of workers who already have jobs?
That’s part of the point I’ve just made. For example, every year there is a percentage of young people who qualify but they can’t be employed because companies want experience … What does a government do? We’re saying, we subsidise [young workers] so that they find a breach to enter into the workforce.
Of course, the unions are going to say, “What is this?” To me it’s not a problem, naturally, but they are looking at the workers that are already employed. We are looking at the workers who are not employed.