Free State Premier and ANC chairman Ace Magashule has openly endorsed President Jacob Zuma’s re-election to the ANC’s top position during the party’s crucial elective conference to be held in Mangaung in December.
This was despite the ANC national executive committee resolution, which forbids party members to engage on the succession debate until nomination processes were opened in October.
In a hard-hitting speech delivered at the party’s provincial conference in Parys on Friday, Magashule also launched a veiled attack at deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe for criticising the second transition document — used by Zuma to campaign for the second term.
A key document that will be discussed at the conference, called “The Second Transition: Building a National Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012”, stems from an analysis that the past two decades of transformation did not translate into economic transformation but mainly political freedom, which necessitates the need to enter a new transition focusing on economic transformation.
But in his speech at the Harold Wolpe lecture in the Eastern Cape last week, Motlanthe criticised the second transition document, saying it was steeped in the SACP’s Marxist jargon and failed to convey what the ANC wanted to achieve as it grappled with underdevelopment.
This was seen by many in the ANC as a direct attack on Zuma, who has been championing the idea of a second transition over the past few weeks.
A close ally of Zuma, Magashule, who was controversially re-elected unopposed as ANC chairman on Friday, questioned Motlanthe’s criticism of the document.
“An NEC member cannot distance oneself from a policy document that was discussed in an NEC meeting. In the ANC NEC if your view is defeated there, you can’t go outside the structures [to air your views]. There are those who think that if they appear on TV or radio, they will be [elected] president,” said Magashule, in an indirect reference to Motlanthe.
In what was a clear campaign for Zuma, the conference venue was decked with posters bearing Zuma’s face with the slogan declaring: “Hands-off our President Jacob Msholozi Zuma”.
The Magashule aligned delegates sang pro-Zuma songs throughout the proceedings. The anti-Magashule faction, which included provincial secretary Sibongile Besani and provincial treasurer Mxolisi Dukwana boycotted the conference, after Luthuli House ignored several complaints raised by ordinary ANC members.
The disputes are mainly that NEC deployees, particularly Mining Minister Susan Shabangu, instructed about 40 branches to reconvene their general meetings even after they had already been credited as delegates.
They also complained about the audits of the branches, which ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe signed off on did not match the membership audit conducted by his office earlier this year.
Magashule suggested Zuma was the only leader who was capable of leading the ANC now and beyond 2012.
“If JZ leaves, we [are going to be] in trouble because they [Zuma’s opponents] will sell the country to the highest bidder. That’s why I lift Zuma up there. JZ just did not wake up and dream of being president. We voted him into power. When we leave this conference, we must make sure that you know who Jacob Zuma is, because if you don’t know who Jacob Zuma is, you will elect people who are propped up by the media. JZ is one of the internationalists and intellectuals, you know for sure that even if you have your degrees, but if you were to engage him on any topic you will be mesmerised. I’m sure in December, we will apply our minds on who should be our leaders,” said Magashule.
Motlanthe is seen by some within the ANC as the right man to take over the ANC’s top job to restore the integrity of the 100-year-old liberation movement.
Magashule spokesperson William Bulwane was elected to the powerful position of provincial secretary while provincial Minister of Agriculture Msebenzi Zwane was elected provincial treasurer.
Mangaung executive mayor Thabo Manyoni was re-elected provincial deputy chairman. The provincial conference was attended by, among others, Communications Minister Dina Pule, KwaZulu Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and ANC Youth League Treasurer Pule Mabe, who was introduced by Magashule to the delegates as youth league leader. Zuma will address the provincial conference on Sunday.