President Jacob Zuma appealed to business people from all political persuasions to be patriotic and invest in the ANC to ensure that the party successfully implements its plans.
Zuma, speaking at the ANC’s gala dinner held on Friday night to raise funds for the party, spoke of how everyone was benefiting from the freedom that the ANC had won for the country.
He said it was important for everyone to recognise this and help sustain that freedom.
Zuma has been criticised by the ANC’s detractors, who view his pleas to business as tantamount to soliciting a bribe.
He, however, calls it a wise investment. “I always hear business people saying you must invest wisely.
“If you are a wise business person, invest in the ANC. Democracy is not free. It is very expensive, time consuming, a big responsibility,” said Zuma to laughter in the room.
He was not joking though. Appealing for “just one cheque”, Zuma said the ANC had to be successful in implementing its policies for the country to be successful.
“This means the future of this country is in your hands. Be there to do wise things for your business, for our organisation and for your country,” he said.
Zuma also reached out to those who left the ANC to form their own organisations.
“There are people who have left the ANC for one reason or the other, including those who left out of anger and established their own parties. The ANC remains … and the doors are always open for them.”
Zuma called on those in attendance to make sure that the organisation grows stronger and bigger, and that it governs properly.
Although table one had a R3 million price tag, it was not captains of industry that flanked Number One and two of his wives – Bongi Ngema and Thobeka Mabhija – at their table at the front of the ballroom in the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday night.
As always at big ANC fundraising dinners, business mogul Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious Moloi, had the seat of honour next to the president and his spouses, presumably because he picked up the tab.
To the president’s left were struggle stalwart, women’s rights activist and ANC MP Sophie de Bruyn and veteran activist Ruth Mompati.
De Bruyn said they did not expect to be invited to the table.
“We are here as part of the integrity committee, and suddenly we heard our names being called. We were so surprised,” she said.
Another surprise guest at Zuma’s table was a French-language author and academic from Congo-Brazzaville, Michel Innocent Péya, who, through a translator, told City Press he had written a book on politics, dedicating a chapter to the ANC.
In his speech, Zuma deviated from a raft of old punchlines and themes to concentrate on the ANC’s reputation and relations in the rest of Africa.
He mentioned meetings he had with three presidents in his capacity as head of state, where the presidents told him that the ANC was important to them.
“One was from north Africa who heard the news of what was happening in the ANC. He said to me: ‘Don’t play around with the ANC, it is our organisation too’.”
He said another president who has been running his country “for a long time” said he was learning from the ANC about governance. Yet another one in southern Africa was keen to hear from Zuma how things were going in the ANC.
Zuma is often criticised for a perceived lack of principled foreign policy, which critics say he arranges around his personal financial interests rather than in the national interest.
Unlike other years, there was no auction after the dinner, which was organised by ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize’s office.
When asked about this, Mkhize said: “What do we have that we would want to sell?” He said leather jackets were on sale anyway. In the past, Zuma’s biker jacket was auctioned for R400 000 to former mining minister Susan Shabangu.
Mkhize said he didn’t know how much money the ANC had raised from the dinner.
Despite the price tag for the tables, which had ministers and ANC government leaders entertaining the guests, the menu was modest.
For starters, there was a buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad and pesto, and for mains, there was chicken breast with a mango and leek sauce and a few vegetables, as well as a lyonnaise potato bake.
For dessert, there was a small piece of mandarin cheesecake, and a tiramisu mocha mousse with small pieces of fruit.
Each table had two complimentary bottles of wine – a white and a red – and a jug of orange juice, but guests had to pay for any other drinks they wanted.