Conference will test branches' love for Zuma

2017-06-30 08:00
Jacob Zuma. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Jacob Zuma. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's popularity within ANC branches will be tested at the party's fifth policy conference which will get underway on Friday. 

- Special report: ANC policy conference

Several branch leaders and provincial leaders have told News24 that they will use the conference to put pressure on Zuma to resign ahead of the December elective conference.

The ANC has dedicated two days to discuss its "ailing" state in terms of the decline in electoral support, which is expected to continue well into the 2019 general elections.

Zuma detractors want to confront him on "what he has been doing to the party and tell him he must consider stepping down".

However the policy conference can only make policy proposals that will be ratified at the December conference, where new leaders will be elected.

Zuma is the party's most unpopular president, facing the 8th motion of no confidence in parliament and having survived two formal calls in the party's national executive committee for him to step down.

Tripartite alliance partners Cosatu, SACP and Sanco have also called for him to go.

Zuma will be defended by several provincial leaders and the leagues but branch leaders want to speak out over how he is "sinking" the party after being at the centre of major scandals including Nkandla, state capture, #Guptaemails and cabinet reshuffle without consulting the party’s top six and tripartite alliance partners.

"We know the policy conference doesn't have powers to tell him to go, but we are putting him on warning that he will have to step down or be pushed at the December elective conference," a Gauteng branch leader said. 

Rescue the ANC

This is the first major gathering of the party since several major events. These include Zuma's reshuffling of his cabinet which prompted an economic downgrade, the Constitutional Court's finding that he failed to uphold the Constitution over Nkandla, the Public Protector's report on State Capture that recommended a Judicial Commission of Inquiry over undue influence by his friends, the Guptas and the recent release of damning emails that show the family had access to cabinet ministers and state owned entities.

“Remember the last time anything could be done was at the National General council in 2015, but then all we had were assumptions, now we have concrete information,” another Gauteng branch leader said.

“We are leaving it to him to go."

Sources said the two-day meeting will be the right platform to “speak their mind” in an effort to “rescue the ANC”.

During a media briefing on the state of readiness for the conference, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said State Capture will be part of the discussions.

“Any diagnosis that does not talk to that issue today will be less than candid. So it will be discussed in detail."

MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe said they expected Zuma's detractors to push for him to go, but they would defend Zuma and explain that calls for him to go are part of a regime change plan and propaganda that has been used to indoctrinate them.

“Regime change agents said let us make Jacob Zuma a problem and use everything to discredit the ANC through him and force the party into a situation that says he is creating a problem for us, and that scenario has resonated with our people,” Maphatsoe told News24 ahead of the conference. 

He said the #Guptaemails had not implicated Zuma but his son, Duduzane.

“You remember they raised Nkandla and the enemy managed to use it effectively against us. The ANC did not manage to rebut it [as well as] the Constitutional Court decision and the State Capture report, but they were used to make people believe the president is a problem,” Maphatsoe said.

Another provincial leader said while the problem was not only Zuma but the 86 member National Executive Committee, Zuma will know how the branches feel about him.

Collective responsibility

“We can’t single him out alone, but after this policy conference the president will know by actions and sentiments that he must voluntarily take action himself,” the leader who did not want to be named said.

Limpopo ANC secretary Knox Seabe said while he expected debate around Zuma's continued stay at conference, getting rid of him won't solve the party's problems. 

“Even if you remove Zuma, the problems of the ANC will not be gone. We lost votes in the 2016 elections even in rural areas and its because of manipulation of councillor nominations, not the president,” Seabe said.

The ANC NEC decided to take "collective responsibility" after its 10% decline in the 2016 local government elections and losing four metros to opposition parties. 

Another leader said Zuma supporters are in the majority, led by Kwa-Zulu Natal which is still the biggest province and Mpumalanga which is the third biggest.

Other provinces like Gauteng and the Eastern Cape are expected to be divided. 

The policy conference will be used as a litmus test for the December elective conference with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma seen as front runners to replace Zuma.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  politics  |  anc policy  |  anc leadership race  |  ancpolicy17

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