JOHANNESBURG. — South Africa’s oldest anti-apartheid political party, the African National Congress (ANC) celebrated its 105th anniversary yesterday. The day was ushered in by showers of rain as thousands of supporters filled the 40 000-capacity Orlando Stadium in Soweto, a hotbed of the struggle that ended white-majority rule more than 20 years ago.The ANC was born in 1912. Addressing party supporters yesterday, President Zuma denounced corruption within the ruling ANC party and admitted that mistakes had cost the party at the ballot box after a year of damaging scandals.
President Zuma is set to step down as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in December, before he completes the maximum two terms in office as national president in 2019.
He and other senior ANC figures have been embroiled in a series of graft allegations, as South Africa has struggled with a slowing economy, high unemployment and regular violent protests.
Last August, the ANC — which came to power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela after the end of apartheid — recorded its worst-ever election results at local polls.
“The ANC has heard the message that the people delivered in August. We accept that we have made mistakes,” President Zuma, said in a speech marking the ANC’s 105th anniversary.
“When leaders and members of the ANC are corrupt and steal, they are betraying the values of the ANC, the people and our country. We will not allow this.”
“We must give our people hope, we must unite against our common enemies, which are unemployment, poverty and inequality, and not against one another.”
Among President Zuma’s possible successors are his ex-wife, African Union chief Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.
“The ANC will elect a new national leadership towards the end of the year,” President Zuma said.
“Too often, comrades fight for leadership positions as they see leadership as the route to material and personal gain.”
As attacks on his presidency grew last year, President Zuma survived an attempt by ANC rivals to oust him in November, shrugging off criticism of his conduct by the official anti-graft watchdog and the Constitutional Court.
The watchdog probe uncovered evidence of possible criminal activity in his relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence.
President Zuma, who took power in 2009, retains strong loyalty among many rank-and-file ANC party members, as well as its lawmakers. He struck a humble note at the ANC celebrations in the sports stadium in Soweto,
“The people have told us that we are too busy fighting each other and we do not pay sufficient attention to their needs,” he said.
“The ANC must unite so that we are able to unite the people against our common enemies — unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
Speaking after President Zuma’s address some of the party faithful said those attacking President Zuma were only making him stronger.
“We are here to support the president and to say that we are 100 percent behind him. All these attacks on him are meant to make him strong. He is our president . . . we are the ones who voted for him, so we don’t care what the EFF says, what the DA says. “We see a president who is focused on the country.”
The 29-year-old said compared to his predecessor, Zuma was a more down-to-earth leader who genuinely cared for his people.
“(President) Zuma is a president who stands for his people and always thinks for his people. So, whatever the opposition says, we are here to say ‘Hands off umkhulu Zuma’ and we will support him until 2019.”
Ntsoto said if President Zuma did not opt to run for a third term, he would be throwing his weight behind his ex-wife and outgoing African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as she was the best candidate for the job.
“Come December, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will be the incoming president and she will lead us.”
Ntombenhle Zuma, a resident from Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, had also braved the wet and cold weather to attend the celebrations. Although she was no relation to Zuma, she said she and others back home had a deep love and appreciation for him and all he had done for his people. “The people in Nkandla are very happy with our president; they want him to carry on until 2019. They love that the president is always supporting the people in Nkandla and KZN.”
She said President Zuma always made an effort through lunches and annual activities, every December, to make Nkandla residents both young and old feel special. She loved this about him.
“That is why I love my president, Jacob Zuma. We love him. Our president is a loving person who is working for South Africa. He went into exile to fight for our people.” The 42-year-old said rumours of his corrupt behaviour were false and malicious.
However, she said a lot of work needed to be done in Nkandla to help alleviate problems, especially youth unemployment.
“One thing that the ANC can do in Nkandla is. . . provide more opportunities for education and jobs. There are a lot of young people in Nkandla who are not working.”
She said having a big mall, more schools, a college and hospital in the area could help deal with some of the residents’ basic problems.
Another staunch Zuma supporter who wanted to see the 74-year-old lead for another term was Sibusiso Siziba who had travelled from Piet Retief in Mpumalanga to hear Zuma speak.
The 36-year-old said life in his home village of Mkhonto was not easy and he was hoping the ruling party would try to improve their living conditions and opportunities for both school and work.
“We would like the president to help us out.
We don’t have a college and the closest one is in Ermelo which is about 100km from where we live, so the children struggle.
“If they can just build one in the area where we live in Piet Retief, it would be really great.”
Siziba said work opportunities in the area were scarce and when they did pop up, they were usually short-term contracts which last six months at the most. Despite this, Siziba said he was satisfied with President Zuma’s leadership and would have loved to see him continue leading the ruling party, if he could.
“We would like to see Nxamalala continue, but if the NEC decides to choose someone else then we will support whoever they decide on.
“But we love Nxamalala . . . (He) is an honest man. We have seen some changes since he came and it’s just that things won’t change for all of us at the same time. We must be patient . . . things will change,” he said.￼
— News Agencies