Amid renewed calls for the president to step down following a disappointing showing by the ANC in last week’s local government elections, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) have rallied behind Jacob Zuma, saying he is “going nowhere”.
The significant drop in voter support for the ruling party meant it lost its majority in several key metropoles, with speculation rife that controversy-linked Zuma is the likely cause of the party’s decline in popularity.
But ANCYL treasurer-general Reggie Nkabinde is confident Zuma will remain the head of the party until the 2019 national elections.
He said that, under Zuma’s leadership, the ANC had increased its support.
This position was reiterated by MKMVA, which said yesterday it was wrong to blame Zuma for the party’s disappointing performance in the elections.
“It is wrong to single out the president,” MKMVA chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said during a media briefing at Luthuli House, Johannesburg.
“It is the ANC that did not achieve 50 plus one. It is not President Jacob Zuma that did not achieve 50 plus one.
“The president never contested as a mayor. It is the ANC that contested elections.”
This starkly contrasts with comments made by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who said over the weekend that the Nkandla and Gupta debacles had alienated the middle-class voter.
“Although national issues are not the main issues in local government, for the middle class they still are,” said Mantashe.
“Like the debate on Nkandla, the debate on the Guptas… for the middle class those are major issues,” The Sunday Times quoted him as saying.
Nkabinde, meanwhile, cautioned against using Zuma as a bargaining tool in any coalition negotiations.
Responding to claims that one of the EFF’s conditions for a coalition partnership with the ruling party was that Zuma step down, Nkabinde said: “It won’t happen. It will only happen when I am dead. I will never agree with that.”
Nkabinde did not rule out the possibility of a coalition between the unlikely bedfellows completely though.
“Collusion is collusion. Collusion may not mean we are friends. It means we are tactical allies for the meantime to cross the bridge,” he told the media during a briefing yesterday.
Exposing an apparent split in the youth league’s alliances, Nkabinde dismissed ANCYL Gauteng chairperson Matome Chiloane’s comments that EFF leader Julius Malema should rejoin the ruling party. Nkabinde made the point that any calls for Malema to return to the ANC would have to come from the party’s national executive committee.