Zuma takes jabs at veterans, stalwarts at policy conference

2017-06-30 18:22
President Jacob Zuma addresses party delegates during the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

President Jacob Zuma addresses party delegates during the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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WATCH LIVE: ANC policy conference, Day 1 wrap

2017-06-30 16:05

Watch as News24 political editor Mahlatse Gallens hosts a Day 1 wrap of the African National Congress (ANC) policy conference, live from Nasrec in Johannesburg. WATCH

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma took jabs at African National Congress veterans and stalwarts who boycotted the party's policy conference on Friday, calling them "so-called leaders".

Opening the policy conference on Friday at the Nasrec Expo Centre, Zuma said ANC stalwarts disregarded the role of the branches.

"They said they don't think the quality of discussion here is at their level. They need serious discussion. These are the people who claim they have values and understanding of the ANC... " he said.

Zuma was reacting to the announcement by the stalwarts and veterans on Thursday that they would not be attending the two days set aside for the consultative conference.

The former ANC leaders said their decision was based on Zuma's failure to separate the policy conference from the consultative conference as previously promised.

READ: #ANCPolicy Conference LIVE: 'Being dragged to court is counter-revolutionary' - Zuma

Zuma resignation

Zuma said the "so-called leaders" took a decision on their own outside of the structures.

The stalwarts had requested the two days to review the state of the organisation, which was in "crisis".  They had initially written a letter to Zuma requesting his resignation with 101 signatories.

"At first we thought it was very funny that so many comrades could organise a petition in the manner in which they did... [but] we said: 'Fine, maybe comrades have reason,'" he said.

Zuma questioned the 101 signatories who signed the petition saying that some of them had called ANC headquarters to distance themselves from the letter.

He fell short of calling the former leaders ill-disciplined saying that they chose to communicate with the ANC through media briefings.

He said the stalwarts and veterans were arrogantly thinking they have some power within the organisation.

"Some of them are not as strong as they project themselves. We are keeping to the discipline of the organisation. We are not engaging them in public," he said.

He reminded branches of their power within the organisation which was why branches determined the policy of the ANC, Zuma argued.

"You choose people and they give you instruction. It's a funny thing. If you take decisions here as recommendations, it is, in actual fact, the branches which have taken decisions."

Zuma said some people have asked for him to step down disregarding the branches.

"There is no other forum that can elect a president except the conference of the branches... The power is on the branches... Even when people who have no right come to tell you: 'The president must go,' and you remain silent. I don't know why."

Ultimately Zuma said the consultative conference was geared toward finding a common understanding at a faster pace.

Earlier Zuma received a lacklustre reception.

When ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete introduced Zuma, a small number of delegates cheered and started singing ANC songs while a larger group stood in respect but remained silent.

As he began observing protocol and mentioned ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, a round of applause and cheering ignited at the far side of the hall. 

Zuma emphasised unity in the party during the six days of the policy conference discussions adding that unity, "must be the thread that keeps this movement and our country together".

Listen to our politics editor Mahlatse Gallens as she speaks to South Africa's sharpest political minds.

Listen on iTunes here.

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

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