Zuma meets editors

2008-11-14 00:00

ANC President Jacob Zuma is a debating man. At a luncheon with editors on Tuesday he said that his recent utterances regarding being tough on crime and sending pregnant schoolgirls away from their communities to be educated, were to provoke debate on these issues.

Zuma also said that the ANC 2009 election manifesto is open to debate and invited South Africans to make suggestions on what they would like to see in the party’s manifesto. Analysts welcomed this new openess. However, they don’t perceive it as much more than a reaction to breakaway party, the Congress of the People (Cope), entering into the fray, the ANC wooing the electorate and the party distancing itself from Thabo Mbeki’s presidency which ran the organisation like a closed book. The test in the months ahead, say analysts, is whether the ANC will listen to what is being said.

The ANC will be holding a national manifesto conference at the end of this month. This will be the culmination of a campaign that started this week which invites South Africans to contribute suggestions to the manifesto. Zuma said the manifesto theme is, “My future, my vision”, and that all contributions will be collated and considered. He added that there will also be a religious summit on November 27, when religious leaders will be invited to help the party fine-tune its moral regeneration strategy and focus.

While Zuma is open to general debate, he is not too keen on the offer by DA leader Helen Zille for a one-on-one debate. He told the editors that he is not certain what makes Zille want the debate with the ANC president. “If you’ve got your own policies you should be talking to your own electorate, why do you talk to the opposition? It’s not to say that I will vote for the opposition, why would I need to be convinced,” he said.

Similarly, he said that when the breakaway party formulates its policies, he will engage with its policies but not sit with them and debate.

Zuma offered a number of other titbits to chew on.

• On Kgalema Mothlanthe continuing as president of the country, he said the decision is out of his hands as the matter had been resolved at Polokwane when a decision was taken that the president of the party would be the president of the country. “Nothing has changed,” he said.

• On an absent police commissioner, Zuma called for the speedy replacement of Jackie Selebi, given the crime situation in the country. He said having an acting commissioner for too long would undermine government’s determination to fight crime.

• ANC members’ jumping ship to the new party is not a threat as the party has more than enough members to replace them, Zuma said.

• He was tough on errant civil servants, saying there is a feeling that government employees take it easy, are clockwatchers and can be unhelpful. “I think we need to change the culture of work. I don’t think we should tolerate the lack of accountability. We can’t have people who don’t perform and just sit in their positions. There must be changes that government must perform.

• Zuma said youth leader Julius Malema has been reined in and evidence of this is that he is no longer making the kind of statements that got him into trouble. He said he is not giving any guarantee that he won’t in the future but that the ANC leadership is committed to ongoing talks with youth leaders to ensure that they speak responsibly.

• On his recent utterances regarding the need for idle school pupils and pregnant teenagers to be sent away from their communities to be educated, Zuma said he was provoking a discussion with the country. He said pregnant teenagers end up leaving school and there is a need to find a way to send them to colleges so that they can get an education and care for their children. Similarly, school dropouts needed to be taken out of their environment and forced to go to schools. “You have to listen to the population out there. Many believe that this is the solution. In the Free State old people are saying these children don’t listen to us.”

We don’t want to end up with a population that is useless and unemployable. Solutions must be found to these problems, Zuma said.

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