'These were not nine wasted years' - Zuma hits back at detractors in ANC

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Former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa during the election manifesto launch. (File, Reuters)
Former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa during the election manifesto launch. (File, Reuters)

Former president Jacob Zuma has hit back at his detractors in the ANC who recently openly referred to his term of office as "nine wasted years".

And he used his Twitter account on Tuesday to address the "recent comments and attitudes that, if not questioned, threaten to become the prevailing wisdom and even the new status quo in the ANC".

"Because we are hearing, now, of the country's 'nine wasted years'. When referring to the past decade as 'wasted years' in this way, these critics saying so within the ANC might be quick to point out they are not only speaking in reference to me. They may even say they are pointing the finger at themselves, or at the movement in general, but I must still caution against this new trend, and not for my sake," Zuma said.

Fin24 recently reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke out about South Africa's "nine lost years" at a dinner in Davos.

Ramaphosa has, in several speeches, referred to the period from 2008 to 2018 as a lost decade.

At Davos, he edited the period down to nine years, which coincided with the period when Zuma was in office, Fin24 reported.

"We are in an election year and it is not advisable for us to subscribe to the lie that the past decade has been a completely wasted one. It was the ANC in charge, and we should not be taking such a message of defeatism to those who have given us their votes, and trust.

"I do not believe we have betrayed that trust and I remain proud of much of what we and the country achieved over the past decade. Could we have done more? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes. Was it a wasted decade? No," Zuma said.

He then listed some of his achievements since he became the president of the country in 2007, including free tertiary education, HIV/Aids treatment programmes, subsidised housing for the poor, and increasing access to electricity, sanitation and piped water.

"Our social grants programme was broadened to 17 million – a buffer against disaster for so many of our people.

"Government's expanded school nutrition programmes in both primary and secondary schools now reach more than nine million children every school day, most of them attending no-fee schools," Zuma said.

He also boasted about building two universities during his term in office.

"During these years, South Africa became an equal partner in Brics, an important step for not just the economy of South Africa, but a key global development to give formerly oppressed countries more options. I could go on. These were not nine wasted years," Zuma said.

He said a culture of despondency and near-defeatism seemed to have crept into the ANC after the party failed to win two of the big metros in Gauteng in 2016.

"The loss of Johannesburg and Tshwane was blamed, by some, 'on Zuma'. But how many bothered to take the time to acknowledge that this was the same province where this same Zuma had been rejected by some in the provincial leadership, treated with embarrassment and most heavily criticised by the ANC itself?

"They did not want me to campaign for them in Gauteng – and they did not win any major metro. Even Ekurhuleni is governed now through coalition," he said.

He suggested that some in the national ANC should "take a lesson" from what happened in the Gauteng metros.

 READ: Ramaphosa's pitch for SA at Davos

"We should be campaigning positively: we should be telling our people the truth of what we have done and will still be doing. That is how we won our elections over the past two terms, and in the elections before those.

"The ANC is a positive force for good in our society and that is the message we should be telling. That is the message I am sharing now on the campaign trail as I continue to work with all I have for the ANC to regain the two-thirds majority it needs to take the country forward."

Zuma, who succeeded former president Thabo Mbeki, took a jibe at Ramaphosa and said he never once blamed any predecessor or pointed to any perceived failing of any predecessor when he was leader.

"I focused on what we would do and achieve in the ANC, and we focused on achieving those things. There is no such thing as nine wasted years behind us.

"Let us ensure the nine and more years that stretch before us will not be looked back upon as a great wasted opportunity – a chance to take forward our true vision of ongoing radical economic transformation, for which our country continues to cry out," he said.

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