‘We ruined it’: Zuma laments ANC’s ‘serious mistakes’

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Sarel van der Walt
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Sarel van der Walt

President Jacob Zuma has for the first time given an indication that he did not favour the deployment of Thoko Didiza as mayoral candidate for Tshwane ahead of the 2016 local government elections.

Not only did that decision backfire, with the ANC losing the metro, but as soon as the governing party announced Didiza’s candidature townships in the capital city were literally on fire as violent protests broke out.

Zuma, who spoke at the ANC Amathole regional conference in the Eastern Cape on Sunday evening, admitted the ANC had made serious mistakes in the lead-up to the watershed local government elections, which resulted in the party losing control of three strategic key metros, Tshwane, City of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela, a decision for which the national executive committee took “collective responsibility”.

Zuma said that it was the ANC who put the opposition parties in power.

“Because [the ANC had] internal problems, rest assured, there would be consequences and this is what happened. I can tell you. Of all the metros, I won’t talk about the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, because you know all about it. We ruined it for years, bit by bit. Now the opposition is in charge. We cannot say we are surprised by that,” Zuma said.

He said the same was true in Gauteng where the party made plenty of mistakes.

“You can count them [mistakes]. In Pretoria there were two leaders there who were made to fight like young boys,” he said in what could be construed reference to tensions by supporters loyal to former Tshwane mayor and chairperson of the Greater Tshwane ANC region, Kgosientso Ramokgopa and his deputy Mapiti Matsena.

“On top of that we decided to bring another comrade who had never led there to come to Pretoria. I thought to myself: We have taken this decision? And it turned out to be a curse. It became a curse because people said, this comrade who cannot even speak Setswana? Now we had to sit them down and say, no comrade, we know this leader. These are self-created problems. I hope we learnt our lessons and won’t repeat them,” Zuma said.

He said in the past year the ANC experienced some big challenges, to the point that some leaders even said: “We have lost elections. We better all resign because we have failed.”

The president who was on a charm offensive in the province as his supporters swept clean all the election slates in both Nelson Mandela Bay and Amathole, said his party did not lose the local government election but won nationally and overall.

He said even with the metros of Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and City of Johannesburg, the ANC did not lose because it was a tie. Nobody won outright because opposition parties formed “very narrow” coalition governments which were, in their nature, unsustainable, Zuma said.

“If you rule the country through a coalition of parties that think differently the problem there is that it might fall anytime when differences rise. Even in the metros where the oppositions succeeded to establish the coalitions they are not in control of the people. We are in control of many wards than them. That is why to them these metros are ungovernable because they are not governing their supporters,” he said.

Speaking of late former ANC president Oliver Tambo, whose the party celebrates this year, Zuma described him as an amazing man and leader. He said that even during Tambo’s 30 years as ANC president, the organisation did face challenges.

This comes as the ANC president has faced lots of criticism in his own party in the last few months, for the Nkandla saga which resulted in a hard-hitting Constitutional Court ruling against him that he pay some of the money spent on his private home in KwaZulu-Natal. Last year a senior ANC leader and tourism minister Derek Hanekom led a vote of no confidence motion against Zuma in an national executive committee meeting, the ANC’s highest decision-making body between conferences.

“When this organisation was lead by the most able [OR Tambo] it has always come across challenges ... This organisation has gone through big challenges wherein leaders at times ask questions as to what needs to be done to get out of these challenges. Challenges are not the end of the ANC but a test,” Zuma said.

Below the Amathole regional conference results that were released this morning [Monday]:

Chairperson: Ace Ncobo (90) versus Khanyile KC Maneli (173)

Deputy chairperson: Sheila Xego (173) versus Nobotwe Magwaxaza (86)

Secretary: Teris Ntutu (175) versus Ndoda Ntlikithi (88)

Deputy Secretary: Zibuthe Mnqwazi (171) versus Nomhle Black Sango (87)

Treasurer: Sivile Mabandla (81) and Onke Mgunculu (175)

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