President Jacob Zuma has used his political report as ANC president to lash out at his critics inside the governing party, accusing them of being part of the problems it faces.
Zuma also called on members of the ANC to close ranks in the face of increasing mobilisation against the party by business, civil society and the opposition, saying that party discipline was paramount for the party’s survival.
Zuma’s report was delivered around six hours late, due to delays in starting conference caused by problems in registration and an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to discuss the court cases barring two Provincial Executive Committees (PEC) and one Regional Executive Committee from conference.
While acknowledging that the ANC was battling with “negative tendencies” which had developed since it took power in 1994, Zuma lashed those who spoke out about them, saying they needed to be dealt with internally instead. Likewise, ANC members who took the party to court needed to be disciplined in line with the earlier decision that anyone who did so would be expelled.
Zuma gave his ex-wife and NEC member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma another backhand endorsement in her bid to become ANC president, saying it was “historic” and “progressive” that the ANC had three female candidates for president for the first time. This, he said, was a “milestone” for the ANC. Zuma also praised the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), which was the first structure to nominate her, for its work in preparing the ground for a female ANC president.
Describing factionalism as “the biggest threat to the organisation”, Zuma said this had caused the emergence of splinter groups which had then become an opposition to the ANC. This had affected the ANC qualitatively and qualitatively, while slate politics had “cost us many good and capable comrades in whom our movement has invested significantly”.
Zuma said “ill-discipline” has caused ANC members to take the party to court or to side openly with the opposition. This has also happened in parliament, and the party needed to look at how to clamp down on this.
“We need to affirm the authority of the organisation over its individual members. There should be consequences for any member who acts and speaks contrary to the values, principles and political progamme of the ANC,” Zuma said.
Zuma was critical of the judiciary, saying that the relationship between the three arms of state “needs scrutiny.”
The president said recent judgements created the impression that the ANC disregarded the Constitution for “political expediency,” and would make it difficult for the ANC to govern in future.
“We also frown upon the subjection of our internal organisational matters to court processes. ANC members should use internal dispute resolution processes. Judges should not be asked to dictate organisational processes and the direction of the movement,” he said.
Parliamentary oversight, by which Cabinet was held to account, was now being abused by the opposition,said Zuma, aided in some cases by ANC members, who must guard against parliament being used to entrench colonial and apartheid privilege.
Zuma defended the performance of the ANC and government under his watch, outlining the party’s – and government’s – successes over the past 10 years.
The ANC remained in control of eight provinces and several metropolitan councils, but the voting patterns in the 2014 national and provincial elections were a “stark reminder that our people are not happy with the state of the ANC”.
Zuma also attacked the media, saying it was an “active participant with vested interests rather than an impartial and fair observer.” The media was being mobilised against the ANC at home and internationally and this had intensified in recent months, he said. ANC members were being used by this agenda.
Zuma highlighted other challenges the ANC had faced, from the Marikana massacre to the Life Esidimeni tragedy, saying they needed to be prevented from happening again in future.
Zuma said the conference needed to succeed. “We should emerge from the conference united as unity is the rock upon which the ANC was founded and unit is what will make the ANC and South Africa succeed,” Zuma said.
Zuma concluded by saying that he had met with the seven presidential candidates in a bid to promote unity after the conference. “We must all united behind the leadership collective that will be elected here, regardless of our original preferences. At the end of the conference, the movement must be the winner and not individual.”