"I decided to resign before my term ended to save the ANC," former president Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
He was speaking to more than a thousand residents of Bhobhoyi, in Port Shepstone, in the lower South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal at a provincial ANC election campaign event.
"The ANC NEC (national executive committee) told me to resign as president and they could not provide me with reasons when I asked them. I decided to save the ANC and I resigned. I saw that this would lead us into a forest and we would fight among ourselves," he said.
"The ANC is more important than my pain and feelings," he said to loud cheers.
He warned the party's supporters who wore ANC colours to "vote for the ANC and not the president".
"The ANC hasn't done anything wrong to you. There are talks that some people are not happy about so and so or Zuma. Vote for the ANC, not the president. If you choose not to vote next year then you're not mature. Vote for the ANC to remain in government," he insisted.
Zuma warned members who thought they were "special because of power or because of their ideas" to "put the ANC first".
"We joined the ANC, the ANC did not join us. Ours is to make it better than when we joined it," he said.
The ANC has made "mistakes" in its tenure as the governing party, Zuma acknowledged.
"Mistakes happen when you're working," he said.
He warned against those who were "politicking" in their criticism of the ANC and encouraged the youth, especially those who had just turned 18, to vote for the ANC "instead of throwing their vote at sea" by deciding to vote for other parties.
"Do not vote for the other party that used to be led by that woman and now led by that boy, I forget their names and party. Do not also vote for the other party led by that boy who is always in red who talks too much," he said sarcastically.
A former president is not a 'king'
He was seemingly referring to former DA leader Helen Zille and current leader Mmusi Maimane, as well as EFF leader Julius Malema.
"The other party even recently defeated the other coloured woman in Cape Town. She left in the end as they continued provoking her. Why vote for them? The boy in red has done nothing for the people. Vote for the ANC."
He was referring to former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille who recently resigned from her position and also left the DA to form a new political party.
Zuma also took a jibe at the party's former presidents.
"Being a former president does not mean anything. It doesn't mean you're a king," he said.
He suggested that they should respect the current leadership of the party, saying he was under the leadership of provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli during the campaign event in Port Shepstone.
"Being a former means nothing. He is the one who sent me. That's how it's supposed to be. You were given that position for certain reasons. It doesn't mean that when you once had a position, you're a king now. It doesn't mean anything. That's why they use 'former', they now tell you 'useless one' you're a former," he said before bursting into his signature laugh.