“South Africa is a democratic country and the leadership of the ANC in Gauteng has every right to state their views and that of the membership of Gauteng with regards to what government is doing, including displeasure about the e-tolls in their current form,” Zuma said.
He was responding to a resolution to oppose e-tolls in Gauteng taken by the ANC in Gauteng at its elective conference over the weekend.
“We cannot suppress the Gauteng ANC from expressing their views on this matter; in fact, we welcome the feedback. The premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura, discussed this matter with me long before the ANC conference,” said Zuma.
“The national government will discuss the matter with Gauteng.”
The Star on Monday quoted unnamed ANC sources as saying Zuma had snubbed the provincial conference as a result of its stance on e-tolls, and fears that he might be booed.
The provincial ANC had formally invited Zuma to speak at the event, as proof that the wounds of the ANC’s contested elective conference in Mangaung in 2012 had healed. But Zuma neither opened nor closed proceedings.
Instead, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa stood in for him on Friday and ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte delivered the closing address on Sunday.
Sources said the provincial leadership was concerned that Zuma’s no-show would fuel speculation of a growing rift between Gauteng and the national leadership, and that the president was exacting revenge for Gauteng’s decision not to back him for a second term, The Star reported.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa on Monday dismissed “with contempt” accusations that Zuma was angry at the decision the Gauteng branch of the ruling party took on tolls.
“This allegation had no factual foundation and has been peddled by people with malicious intentions. At no stage has President Zuma spoken to anyone where he would have expressed the alleged anger,” he said in a statement.
The ANC was a democratic organisation grounded among the people and that listened to what people wanted.
Kodwa said ANC conferences reflected the thinking and concerns of people.
“In the instance of the Gauteng conference, it is evident that people are concerned (about) the current form and cost of e-tolls, hence the direction of the discussions and the outcome,” he said.
“There is nothing wrong if the conference discussed and resolved on e-tolls. It is within its right to do so. It is therefore mischievous for anyone to suggest that President Zuma is angry when the conference reflects on people’s concerns.”
Kodwa also dismissed Zuma’s no-show at the conference as a snub, saying that Zuma wanted to attend but due to pressures of his schedule he could not.
“The ANC discourages what the so-called sources have said as it is clearly calculated to mislead the public and generate negative response on a matter that is maliciously speculative,” he said.