‘Hands off Zuma’

2014-03-30 14:00

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The ANC and SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in KwaZulu-Natal are spearheading the latest drive to keep President Jacob Zuma in power?–?because, the party says, South ­Africans don’t need “angels” at the helm.

Sadtu’s leaders in the province will put their classroom skills to work, embarking on an “education drive” to teach citizens what they believe is wrong with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on the spending at Zuma’s Nkandla home.

Details of the “education” are slim, but Sadtu is involved with a group calling itself Concerned Lawyers and Educationists for Equality Before the Law, which plans to take Madonsela’s report to court.

They will argue that she overstepped her powers ruling that Zuma should repay a “reasonable percentage” of what was spent on non-security features at Nkandla.

The mooted lawsuit is the brainchild of Sadtu provincial secretary Mbuyiseni ­Mathonsi and lawyer Comfort Ngidi.

KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Senzo Mchunu said the party in the province went to this weekend’s ANC national executive committee meeting in Cape Town with the firm position that Zuma should remain as ANC president despite Madonsela’s findings.

The meeting, which has been convened to discuss the state of the party, was expected to discuss the Nkandla report, which found that Zuma benefited unduly from the ­multimillion-rand upgrades.

But Mchunu defended Zuma, saying that South Africans were not looking for “angels” at the polls. “We take the report very seriously. We regard good governance as fundamental. However, I don’t think we are in a crisis as a country. When people elect a president, they don’t look for angels. They look for ­somebody they think will be able to run their country at that given moment,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal is the ANC’s stronghold and the only province where its electoral support grew during the 2011 municipal elections. It accounts for just more than a quarter of the party’s total membership, according to audited figures released ahead of its ­December 2012 Mangaung conference.

On Friday, thousands of ANC supporters wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Hands off Zuma’ marched in Port Shepstone on the south coast.

This is the second region to march in ­Zuma’s defence after eThekwini did so ­earlier this month.

Mchunu said while the provincial leadership had decided not to convene marches because it was busy with its election campaign, regional structures had consulted it about marching in support of Zuma.

“At the level of ordinary people in their ordinary situation, if you go to a family home, urban or rural, no one raises the question [of Nkandla]. This does not mean it is not an issue. We are not ignoring it,” he said.

Sadtu’s planned campaign, meanwhile, does not enjoy support across the board. Most provinces said they would back the KwaZulu-Natal plan, but Eastern Cape Sadtu secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said it would amount to “overstretching the union” and expressed concern that the attacks on ­Madonsela would demean her office.

Most of the union’s provincial structures said they had not discussed Madonsela’s ­report, but agreed in principle that they would support KwaZulu-Natal.

Thabo Sematle, provincial secretary in North West, said: “We have not started any discussions around the report, but [what they are doing] sounds like a good thing to me. We haven’t done it, but I welcome the initiative. We could buy into that idea.”

Two ANC NEC members, who attended this weekend’s Cape Town meeting, said the party leadership had not discussed the report on the first day of the meeting on Friday.

One source said the ANC would pronounce on Nkandla in the next 48 hours.

“We knew about Nkandla for the past two years and we expected that one day a report like this would come. What has come out is not as bad as we had expected.

“But we are dealing with the Nkandla issue head-on. You just watch, the ANC will do amazing things on this,” he said.

He would not offer any details.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is expected to lead a team this week that will inspect the refurbishments at Zuma’s home as the party had not done so before, despite its vehement defence of the project.

A Gauteng ANC leader said the party was telling worried potential voters that the ­elections were about the party, not a presidential race.

The Eastern Cape leadership expressed support for Zuma and Madonsela at its ­leadership meeting.

An insider said this was because they felt government officials had flouted tender regulations, but were also wary of acting in ways that would undermine Madonsela’s office.

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