The Jacob Zuma faction in the ANC is fighting back strongly to get people to believe the corruption allegations against him are part of “political persecution”.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said that assertions by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule that Jacob Zuma was “among the greatest” presidents to have led the party were part of this calculated strategy.
In opening the ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference at the Durban University of Technology sports centre, Magashule heaped praise on Zuma.
Citing the introduction of free education for all students “especially those from the working class and poor families” and “radical economic transformation” to redress the country’s past economic imbalances, Magashule was generous in describing “bold decisions” implemented by the ANC during Zuma’s tenure as South Africa’s president.
“Magashule and others are refusing to realign themselves away from Zuma, who is facing corruption charges,” said Mathekga. “We should remember that this comes from people who have themselves been implicated in acts of corruption.”
Independent political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke’s reaction to the ANC secretary-general’s claims was: “From a negative point of view, we note that the remarks by Magashule are made, despite knowledge of Zuma being possibly implicated in the divisions plaguing KZN, his alleged role in state capture, the Nkandla scandal and the corruption charges he is facing.”
Referring to the song sung by delegates attending the KZN ANC conference declaring Zuma “innocent of having committed corruption”, Maluleke said: “If the singing is anything to go by, Zuma seems to have become a factor in ANC KZN politics.
“One can only conclude that in making some of his remarks, Magashule intended to underscore the continuing importance of Zuma for – at least – one of the factions in the organisation.”
Maluleke warned that divisions seen at last year’s 54th national ANC conference in Nasrec seemed to persist, despite calls for a united organisation.
“It is scandalous that a senior administrator openly praises the past but does not seem to openly and unequivocally endorse programmes of the current president – an approach that is unhelpful.
“It is curious that (President Cyril) Ramaphosa did not deliver the first speech himself but will be making closing remarks. Was he advised to do so or is he intending to have the last word?”
While Ramaphosa has pulled out all stops to achieve party unity, Maluleke said the ANC president was facing an uphill battle.
“But it is not just about him, it is about the ANC – or rather about the two ANCs not existing side-by-side but inside one another.”
The ANC disunity, he said, could be seen “inside the top six and the NEC (national executive committee)”. He warned this would “make it hard for the party to win next year’s elections”.
“If the elected leaders in KZN could see beyond factions and if they can realise that the instability, violence and factionalism can lead to electoral losses, perhaps that could be a catalyst for healing,” he said.
Despite the internal party factions rocking the ANC, Maluleke said he saw Ramaphosa as “a wise and tactful man”.
“I guess he will ignore the secretary-general and focus on the future – unity and 2019 elections.”