Zuma comes and goes, but the song remains the same

When Zuma arrived in his motorcade on Friday morning to officially open the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference in Newcastle, animated delegates launched into his praise songs, among them the chilling, “Washis’iskipa sikaZuma sakufak’ amavolovolo”, which, loosely translated, means “You burn a Zuma T-shirt, we’ll shoot you”.

By failing to reprimand these members, Zuma’s actions have given credence to an observation that the succession debate in the ANC is only open for those who are advocating for his re-election, but closed for those who want leadership change at the party’s elective conference in Mangaung, Free State.

This is not the first time Zuma has kept silent while acts of anarchy or ill-discipline are committed in his name.

During his rape trial and fraud and corruption appearances in courts in the run-up to Polokwane, Zuma never once rebuked ANC members who burned T-shirts bearing the face of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Even at the recent Mpumalanga provincial conference, where his close ally David ‘DD’ Mabuza was re-elected provincial chairperson, Zuma kept mum even after personally witnessing some delegates wearing T-shirts inscribed with “100% Zuma for 2nd term”.

Zuma’s behaviour at the weekend at KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference was in sharp contrast to that of his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, who called ANC Youth League members to order after they attended a centenary celebration rally wearing T-shirts bearing his name and image.

“Here are these beautiful comrades wearing T-shirts with the face of Kgalema, they are saying Kgalema for president. Once you do that you personalise the organisation. We must never have a situation where we idolise leadership,” Motlanthe told the youth league members. 

KwaZulu-Natal, the biggest ANC province with 252 637 members according to the Latest figures, is leading a campaign for the re-election of Zuma.

The anti-Zuma forces, led by militants in the ANC Youth League, want to replace Zuma with Motlanthe and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe with sports minister Fikile Mbalula.

Despite the ANC NEC’s moratorium on the succession debate, KwaZulu-Natal reaffirmed its support for the re-election of Zuma at Mangaung.

The nominations by ANC branches for new leadership will be officially opened in October.

Addressing the media on the side-lines of the provincial conference, ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial chairperson Zweli Mkhize defended the province’s support for Zuma’s bid for a second term.

“KwaZulu-Natal remains loyal to the ANC and we will remain united with other provinces. No factionalism or allegations of tribalism will prevent us from supporting Zuma … Just as the province has supported the leadership of both former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, we likewise support the leadership of President Zuma. So why is it an issue now, but it was never an issue then?” asked Mkhize.

Provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said there was no doubt that KwaZulu-Natal supported the current leadership under Zuma.

“They have adhered to the policy resolutions of Polokwane and we are not shaken by our support for this leadership. We are also grateful for the support the president has given to the province. If there are provinces that have different views on the leadership we will engage with them because at the end of the day we are still one ANC,” said Zikalala.

KwaZulu-Natal’s top leadership was re-elected without a contest. 

Mkhize remains chair, and his deputy Willies Mchunu, provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala, deputy secretary Nomusa Dube and the controversial provincial treasurer and Speaker, Peggy Nkonyeni all stay in their positions.

Nkonyeni and the provincial economic development and tourism minister, Mike Mabuyakhulu, along with businessman Gaston Savoi, are facing charges of corruption, money laundering, fraud and racketeering arising from allegations that they defrauded the provincial health department by inflating the prices of water purification equipment that Savoi’s company supplied.

Declarations and resolutions of the conference:

On economic transformation:“The government should play a more involved role in driving economic development. This will require the government to play an active role on the strategic sectors of the economy: in particular mining, financial industry, agriculture and land redistribution.”

On political education of new members: “We shall intensify political education and cadre development to build the cadreship steeped in the culture and traditions of the movement. This will include compulsory political training of leaders and deployees of the movement.”

On conflict of interest in the judiciary: The conference supported the call routine disclosure of interest by all public office bearers, including judges.

On the judiciary: The conference said it condemned what it calls the abuse of the judiciary by individuals and organisations who seek to gain via the judiciary system what they have failed to achieve via the ballot boxes.

On regaining support in Indian, coloured and white communities: The conference also resolved to instruct the new leadership to accelerate programs of recruitment in minority communities as part of strengthening the non-racial character of the ANC.


Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012). Read more from Charles Molele

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