Zuma escapes the chop again as ANC leaders refuse to blame poor performance on No 1

Opposition parties currently in coalition talks with the ANC are demanding that Zuma must step down as one of the conditions to enter into coalition agreements with the governing party. (Gallo)

Opposition parties currently in coalition talks with the ANC are demanding that Zuma must step down as one of the conditions to enter into coalition agreements with the governing party. (Gallo)

The ANC has once again missed the opportunity to take tough action against President Jacob Zuma despite internal surveys showing his many scandals, including the R246-million Nkandla saga, were negatively affecting the party’s electoral performance. 

Instead, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the party’s national executive committee (NEC) held at the weekend resolved to take collective responsibility for the party’s poor electoral performance. ANC NEC members spent four days at the St Geoges Hotel in Pretoria, analysing the reasons behind the decline in electoral support. This comes after the party lost key metros, including Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane to the Democratic Alliance.
It also registered less than 50% electoral support in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and 23 other municipalities across the country. 

While Mantashe acknowledged the poor performance during the recent local government elections were a result of some national issues, he maintained there was no need for the ANC NEC to discuss how Zuma harmed the party’s performance.

“We did not discuss Zuma. We took a decision that all of us must take responsibility for the poor performance during local elections. There was no proposal from the floor (at the ANC NEC) for President Jacob Zuma to step down. The NEC unanimously agreed to take collective responsibility for the poor performance of the ANC during the elections and resolved to take immediate and bold actions to address the weaknesses and shortcomings that led to the decline of our electoral support,” said Mantashe. 

He failed to explain how the party was going to ensure Zuma did not affect it again ahead of the 2019 general elections.

“The NEC believes that arresting the electoral decline would require the ANC to immediately and courageously embark on bold strategies to re-energise our structures and supporters. This will require us to deal with perceptions of the ANC being arrogant, self-serving, soft on corruption and increasingly distant from its social base,” said Mantashe.

“The people have spoken and we acknowledge and accept the message. The NEC has listened to the voice of the people as reflected in the election results and, with humility, we have heard them and accept their judgment.” 

Mantashe said while the elections were relatively peaceful, the ANC condemned in the harshest possible terms the murders in the lead up to the elections, which resulted in a number of killings. A number of ANC councillor candidates were gunned down in the past few months as factions between the party jostled for positions.

“The NEC sends its deepest condolences to the bereaved families and calls on the law enforcement agencies to act speedily to bring the perpetrators to book,” said Mantashe.

He said the NEC would investigate and act on all instances where there was violation, and even manipulation, of the candidate selection process (including where the choice of wards was undermined).

“We will take action against all who were involved regardless of positions they hold in the organisation.”

Mantashe said the NEC resolved to task the ANC national officials and the national working committee to take urgent measures to rid the movement of factionalism – including in the NEC. The NEC will visit all provinces to meet ANC and alliance structures, different sectors and residents to deal with people’s concerns, Mantashe said.

Opposition parties in coalition talks with the ANC, including the Economic Freedom Fighters and United Democratic Movement, are demanding that Zuma step down as one of the conditions to enter into agreements with the governing party. But Mantashe said the ANC would not be dictated to by opposition parties on Zuma’s political future, saying the ANC was psychologically ready to take opposition benches, if coalition talks collapsed. 

In a move to counter the looming shutdown of universities by students, the NEC resolved that the principle of no-fee increase should remain while the fee commission was consulting stake holders to arrive at an economically viable and affordable higher education. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande was expected to announce fee increases at tertiary institutions on Friday, but the announcement was postponed.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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