Zuma’s charm crusade

2010-09-19 09:00

It’s about 5.30pm on Friday. ­President Jacob Zuma is on stage in the sardine-packed community hall in Ulundi’s C Section, Kwa­Zulu-Natal, sporting a ­killer, leather jacket.

The ANC president is busy apologising to the transfixed mass of supporters inside and outside the hall for having to cut things short because the army chopper he landed in has to take off before dark.

This is a president under ­pressure, riding out waves of ­criticism from allies to his left and right and whose tsunami, which took him from corruption charges in the Pietermaritzburg High Court to the Union Buildings, first broke at the ANC’s last national general council (NGC) meeting five years ago in Tshwane.

Failing light or not, Zuma makes the time to tease and please the near-virgin crowd.

He asks them if they can sing along with him.

The punters go wild and Zuma cranks it up.

He lets rip with his anthem, Awuleth’ Umshini Wami.

This is the original gangster (2005) ­version – all hips and swing, knees up and voice down – vintage Zuma: grooving, grinning and getting the message across in the face of ­trouble.

» June 2005
Facing corruption charges, Zuma has just been axed as deputy ­president of the Republic.

He’s ­being pressed into resigning from his ANC post, which is what he’s ­expected to do at the NGC – which started on June 29, 15 days after he had been sacked.

The smart money has it that he’s dead in the water. Then secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe’s ­report has a whole chapter devoted to Zuma’s funeral eulogy.

But the smart money is wrong.

» Friday
Back to Ulundi, Zuma’s final road gig in KwaZulu-Natal before the party’s NGC.

Like five years ­before, Msholozi has done what he does best – and what works – when the smart money’s against him.

He has gone back to the people who put him in office, the ANC’s rank and file.

Things are tough.

Zuma’s ­administration and the ­“tenderocracy” associated with it have been lashed by his allies in both the youth league and ­Cosatu.

Demands are raging for the ­nationalisation of mines, and the ­implementation of resolutions from the 2007 ANC conference in Polokwane, where Zuma swept the boards.

Knives are out over who takes the helm come the party’s 2012 ­conference in Mangaung.

» Since May
The past few months have seen ­Zuma crisscrossing the Republic, running the ANC’s Imvuselelo ­programme, a regeneration drive aimed at taking stock of where the party’s at, where it has gone wrong and where it has hit right.

Since the Imvuselelo kick-off in Mpumalanga on May 23, Zuma has been delivering the ANC 101 ­lecture.

It’s a mix of party history, a basic lecture on the duties and obligations of members and ­leaders, and the need to accept ­collective decisions.

It is also a reminder that local government elections are around the corner in an environment where ANC councillors are under increasing fire regarding poor service delivery.

The campaign has taken him from Mpumalanga through the Eastern and Western Cape, in and out of KwaZulu-Natal and ­Limpopo, and will continue after the NGC.

» This week in KZN
Thursday and Friday have gone at breakneck speed with Zuma ­tearing across KwaZulu-Natal to ­address open public meetings and private cadre forums, and ­push the ­message that the ­leadership issue is not on the NGC agenda.

Throughout the campaign, ­Zuma is also quietly, but publicly, consolidating his support ahead of the NGC.

It has worked in KZN.The reception is massive, from Glencoe and Newcastle to ­Vryheid and Ulundi.

At a rally in Glencoe’s Sithembile township, Inkosi ­Bambatha regional chairperson ­Philani Mavundla sums it up: “It is not correct to say that the ­president is campaigning. This is an ANC programme. We know where we stand on Zuma. We’ll be in the same ­position in 2012.”

While Zuma is wooing people in Vryheid’s ­Mondlo village, his ­latest ally-turned-critic, Julius ­Malema, is at King Goodwill ­Zwelithini’s ­Linduzulu Palace in nearby ­Nongoma with “wannabe” ANC ­secretary-general Fikile Mbalula.

The monarch has summoned them over Malema’s “one man, one wife” comments, an ­ill-advised swipe at Zuma.

The monarch, with whom ­Zuma spent much of last Saturday at the Royal Reed Dance, is magnanimous: “He was invited to come and explain why he ­mentioned these things. He has apologised and we have ­resolved the issue.”

Malema is now ­eating his words.

He says: “We have reassured your ­majesty we don’t have a ­problem with polygamy. Our ­message had nothing to do with polygamy or the president, it was ­directed at the youth.”

By the time Zuma’s chopper is airborne, he has accomplished what he set out to do.

The ANC’s aims of keeping its leadership ­intact to fight local elections and restore ­organisational discipline have been achieved.

The NGC will focus on policy ­issues only and Zuma goes into the NGC having wrapped up the key ANC provinces.

His highly influential home province is in a high state of ­mobilisation and none of the provinces will back a bid to force leadership ­discussions from the floor.

His friend-turned-enemy has been publicly humiliated and ­silenced without him having ­publicly raised a finger.


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