A rattled Sihle Zikalala has sought to defend his legacy as KwaZulu-Natal premier after resigning.
Zikalala was speaking after announcing his resignation as the province’s premier following his loss of the ANC chairperson position two weeks ago at the provincial congress.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Zikalala defended his legacy, highlighting his achievements as premier and claiming that he has left the ANC united.
“When we started this term, only two departments had attained clean audits. Today, as we depart, the Premier’s Office has attained its first clean audit in history. Additionally, six other departments received clean audits. We have equally improved the overall financial performance of departments. This is a record number of clean audits to be achieved by provincial departments,” he said.
He insisted that he was not forced out, but rather chose to resign because of certain narratives against him.
In particular, Zikalala was hurt by comments that he had failed to support Zuma enough. At the provincial conference, delegates sang songs asking: “Wenzeni uZuma?” [What did Zuma do?]. They also chanted that Zikalala must go. The former premier was accused of failing Zuma when he was arrested and sent to jail for contempt of court in June last year. Zuma’s arrest led to violent unrest that claimed over 400 lives as well as the looting and burning of shops in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Even though Zikalala called for a presidential pardon for Zuma, he was seen as an ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa. He was accused of failing to protect ANC leaders in the province who were told to step aside by the party due to them facing criminal charges.
On Friday afternoon, Zikalala hit back, saying he supported Zuma “from 2005 till today”.
“Some have accused me of betraying former president Zuma. I wish to make it clear that I have supported him right from the beginning of June 14 2005 until today. I supported him as a leader and as someone who sacrificed his life for South Africa to be liberated. My support for him has never been personal, but organisational. At no stage did I try to get a position by being associated with him. And equally, I have never bad-mouthed others because they did not support him.”
He bemoaned that he was maligned for supporting Ramaphosa, explaining it was the tradition of the ANC to support and work with any elected president, even if one had a different choice before elections. He said people should not support leaders because they want to advance their own interests.
He boasted that he was leaving government with no cloud of corruption or wrongdoing. He, however, would stay on as an ordinary MPL:
I do believe that in the period we have been entrusted to serve the people of our province by the ANC, we have honoured our responsibilities. We did our utmost to advance the goals of the national democratic revolution and did our part to accelerate the goal of radical socio-economic transformation,” he said.
Zikalala currently does not serve the ANC in any leadership position after failing to get elected, even as a member of the provincial executive committee.
The ANC in the province said: “We are grateful for the job he has done for the people of this province and we appreciate that he made a conscious decision not to leave the office hastily. Comrade Zikalala’s tenure has come with a lot of good in the province, including several provincial government departments receiving unqualified audit outcomes for the first time.”