Zuma's last speech as ANC president... in a song and a dance

2017-12-16 22:20


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Johannesburg – Shortly after 14:00, the ANC elective conference at Nasrec finally shows signs of clicking into gear, about five hours later than planned. 

At the front of the stage, inside the plenary hall, delegates from KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga and North West are bouncing while singing songs in support of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

She is sitting next to Tony Yengeni, her face not showing any emotion.

They stop their songs to recognise Free State leader Ace Magashule, with the traditional greeting of, "AAAAaaaaace! AaaaaaaaCE!"

Presidential candidate Jeff Radebe sits next to former presidential candidate, now deputy presidential candidate Lindiwe Sisulu, in the front row of the seats on the stage reserved for the NEC members. At the far end of the row sits Ayanda Dlodlo serenely, with a white hat. 

Dlamini-Zuma starts doing the social rounds. She walks across the stage and greets Nathi Mthethwa, while Sisulu is playing with her hair.

Dlamini-Zuma then talks with Lynne Brown, smiles all around, before heading over to Naledi Pandor.  

READ: Obsessed with power, Zuma still doesn't understand Constitution

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is smiling at the dancers and waves at some of them in a queenly fashion as they walk past her.

Mathole Motshekga is dressed in a leather jacket, in ANC colours, and a cap. He looks sternly in front of him. 

More delegates are seated than there are singing and dancing.

The NDZ supporters start making their way to their seats.

"We are going to beat you!" yells one of them at the members of the media congregated in front of the stage, his eyes wide and his head glistening with sweat.

"You with your white monopoly!"

The lesser-spotted Dlamini-Zuma smile

With the NDZ-supporters out of the way, a group making the substitution sign work their way to the front of the stage. They are from Gauteng and some are carrying hand-drawn signs, indicating that they are from KwaZulu-Natal - "CR17 loves KZN", the love indicated by a heart.

Finally, the delegates settle down. 

While waiting for the top six's arrival, Dlamini-Zuma is talking with David Mahlobo. 

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma talks with David Mahlobo. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Those delegates close enough to the stage to see that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is being led to the stage stand in applause. The NEC members stand when she comes onto the stage. She greets Dlamini-Zuma warmly, and several other NEC members also come to greet her.


She throws her left fist in the air, smiling broadly, before taking her seat on the other side of Yengeni. By now, the whole hall is standing and applauding.

While Bathabile Dlamini is talking to Madikizela-Mandela, Dlamini-Zuma takes a call and the lesser-spotted Dlamini-Zuma smile appears.

The lesser-spotted smile of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Finally the top six enter, without the fanfare expected when a political party's most powerful leaders enter the room. Cyril Ramaphosa greets his main challenger for the presidency – Dlamini-Zuma – warmly.

National chairperson Baleka Mbete takes to the podium, while Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma are chatting, both smiling and dressed in yellow shirts.

A few delegates, seemingly from Limpopo, stand on their chairs, singing.

"Comrades who are standing on chairs, can you please climb down," Mbete says. 

'Good friends, not so?'

They heed her call and the programme gets going, with several religious leaders opening proceedings with prayers. A common thread is prayers for unity and peace, and one of the preachers gets the whole hall to stand and hold hands while she prays for unity.

(Le Roux Schoeman, Netwerk24)

After the prayers, delegates from Gauteng get up and start singing about OR Tambo. Mbete joins them, and most of the hall too. 

After quiet descends, Mbete welcomes everybody officially and says she'll go through a few ground rules.

Gwede Mantashe, with his hand on Zuma's shoulder, Zuma himself, Ramaphosa and Jessie Duarte leave the room, with their security detail scurrying behind them. 

"Anything divisive, comrades, will not be allowed in this conference," Mbete says in her speaker's voice. There is faint applause. 

READ: Private sector theft just as bad as government theft - Zuma

Mantashe, Ramaphosa, Duarte and Zuma make their way back, and Zuma takes to the podium.

Does the crowd go wild? Hardly. 

 Zuma greets everybody, including the media.

"Our friends, the media... Good friends, not so? Heh-heh-heh." 

As he gets into his speech, Ramaphosa is taking notes, Dlamini-Zuma sits expressionless, her head tilted slightly. Mantashe and his deputy, Duarte, are busy fussing with papers. 

Every once in a while, there is a smidgen of applause – emanating from the veterans, Women's League, and some of the KwaZulu-Natal delegates. 

"Yes! Yes!" hiss some delegates of the Women's League when Zuma says corporate corruption is treated with kid's gloves.

'They're liars! They're liars!'

Ramaphosa looks up from his notes, expressionless, when Zuma says the ANC must be protected from corporate greed.

Dlamini-Zuma smiles faintly when Zuma says the media is a participant with a vested interest.

"They're liars! They're liars!" says a member of the Veterans' League, who sits right behind members of the media.   

The Youth League makes some noise while Zuma speaks about free higher education.

Ramaphosa shows no reaction while Zuma talks about the Marikana massacre. 

Cyril Ramaphosa listens while Jacob Zuma delivers his address to the ANC conference. (Jan Gerber, News24)

He does, however, join in the faint applause when Zuma says branches must be free to pick the ANC leader.

About half of the hall is on their feet when Zuma says he always tried his very best.

The loudest cheer during his speech is when he says: "I bear no grudges."

With his speech finally concluded, he breaks into song, singing Inde Lendlela

Everyone in the hall are on their feet to join Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma one last time in song as ANC president.

Read more on:    anc  |  johannesburg  |  anc leadership race  |  anc votes

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