South Africa 2.12.2017 12:19 pm

Provincial leaders snub ‘desperate old man’ Zuma’s last-minute pleas for unity

President Jacob Zuma addressing the media at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services Prison during the 40th anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, 12 September 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

President Jacob Zuma addressing the media at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services Prison during the 40th anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, 12 September 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The president is said to have expressed concerns about his legacy in a meeting with provincial leaders, but the leaders say it’s too little, too late.

President Jacob Zuma has reportedly met with provincial leaders and the seven presidential candidates this past week to discuss ways to prevent disruptions at the upcoming ANC elective conference later this month.

There have been signs that the elective conference could be held back by factional battles in the provinces, with legal skirmishes causing trouble in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State in recent months.

In his attempt to intervene in the chaos, Zuma has strongly appealed to provincial leaders this past week to enforce unity in the party ahead of the conference.

His pleas were, however, met with scepticism from some provincial leaders, who were quick to remind the president about his public endorsement of ANC presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Mail & Guardian reports. This, the leaders said, was in contradiction with his calls for unity, which they felt were not genuine.

A provincial leader told the M&G “the old man”, referring to Zuma, was “desperate”, and that he was trying to ensure his supporter ended up on the list of leaders after the conference.

Zuma earlier this year proposed that the ANC constitution be changed to allow for a losing presidential candidate to automatically become the deputy president, which would increase the chances of Dlamini-Zuma, firmly in Zuma’s faction, becoming either the president or deputy president.

The weekly reports Zuma is said to have expressed concern about his legacy during the meeting, but some leaders felt it was too little, too late, as he had had many opportunities to unite the party, but neglected this part of his mandate.

However, Mathews Phosa, a vocal Zuma critic and one of the presidential candidates, said he felt the president’s pleas were genuine.

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