Don’t ‘rubber stamp’ ANC men’s wishes, Zuma tells ANCWL

2015-08-07 10:17
Angie Motshekga. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake/City Press

Angie Motshekga. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake/City Press (Elizabeth Sejake)

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When President Jacob Zuma took to the podium at the ANC Women’s League national conference in Pretoria, his speech had been expected to provide hints over his preferred candidate in the leadership race of the league. 

Between contenders Basic Education Minister Motshekga – also incumbent league president – and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, anyone backed by Zuma was likely to enjoy some advantage going into the elections today. 

An analogy Zuma gave towards the end of his speech yesterday suggested that he wanted one of the candidates to step down from the race. He mentioned a historic ANC conference when a potential candidate pulled out of the race out of appreciation that the competitor would be a better leader. 

Political analyst Xolani Dube said it was impossible to conclude whether Zuma’s analogy was intended as an endorsement for either candidate. 

“He was narrating history in a polluted environment of an elective conference, where delegates would naturally seek for hints to prove their bias,” said Dube. 

Zuma also challenged delegates to put up a fight if they were to deliver a female candidate as party president in the upcoming ANC national conference in 2017. 

Outside of the anticipated leadership contest, one of the highlights of the conference held in Pretoria was expected to be the endorsement of a female candidate to lead the ANC in 2017. 

Zuma told delegates that the focus in his speech on the history and past achievements of the league sought to demonstrate that “the better position that women find themselves in today in the ANC and society was a product of struggle. It did not descend upon them as a result of divine intervention,” he said. 

Zuma, who was expected to step down in 2017, had previously declared that the ANC was ready for a woman to lead the party. The names of ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete and African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had been mentioned as potential candidates to take over from Zuma. 

In terms of ANC tradition it would be expected that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would succeed Zuma. But Ramaphosa was seen to be lacking courage to declare his ambitions to take over, according to critics. 

The women’s league conference had yesterday been dealing with the organisational report when Zuma arrived from Parliament to deliver his keynote address to the delegates. 

League president Angie Motshekga told delegates the proceedings were brought to a halt to accommodate Zuma’s speech. 
Delegates listened attentively as Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile read out Zuma’s struggle credentials during an introductory speech. 

Soon after stepping to the podium, Zuma apologised for “disrupting the conference”, saying there had been a clash of schedule between his question-and-answer session earlier in Parliament and the league’s event. 

Zuma reminded delegates about the rich history of the league. 

A stark contrast emerged between the current state of the league – which failed to hold a conference since 2013 – and its prestigious past as Zuma mentioned the struggles of former leaders and their efforts to turn the league into an influential part of the ANC. He reminded delegates of the responsibilities bestowed upon them by previous generations of the league. 

He mentioned former leaders such as Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, as well as the campaigns they led during their times to bring down apartheid. He said that the voices of women were today being heard as a result of those struggles. 

“The ANC women’s league has a proud history of militancy and radicalism.” He said the former league leaders never just “rubber stamped” the wishes of their male counterparts. 

When Zuma moved to the theme of unity, he said delegates should unite in the names of those who led the league before them. 

He then touched on the anticipated leadership contest, saying that delegates had to think thoroughly whether or not “changing the character of the league” would make it better or worse. 

He also had a subtle jibe against factionalism and block voting, saying members joined the ANC as individuals and each one of them had a responsibility to leave the league in a better shape. 

And for those who had been looking for subtle hints in terms of Zuma preferred candidate for the women’s league presidency, his message seemed carefully crafted to not give away his position.

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