Delegates applaud president's tough line
ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema suffered a major defeat yesterday as President Jacob Zuma stamped his authority on the ruling party and read the riot act to his detractors.
Zuma set the tone at the start of the ANC national general council meeting by going on the offensive. He slammed the youth league for its campaign for leadership changes in 2012 and its demand for the nationalisation of mines.
He also attacked Cosatu for demanding radical changes to the composition of the tripartite alliance, as well for as its role in the recent violent public-sector strike.
Malema had come to the NGC, in Durban, with the objective of launching a campaign to have ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe replaced by Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula in 2012. The league is also known to be campaigning against Zuma standing for a second term as party leader.
But Zuma and Mantashe told delegates that the succession campaign could destroy the ruling party.
"Mobilising and lobbying for succession so early also gives a wrong impression that the ANC comprises groups of people who are preoccupied with fighting for influential positions to advance personal interests instead of advancing the programme of the organisation," Zuma said.
In his organisational report delivered later in the day, Mantashe was more scathing.
"An emerging perception is that daggers are always drawn and there is no political life other than vying for positions in the ANC .
"The way we handle each other publicly promotes this negative image and the ANC can ill afford to be in a state of lobbying from one conference to the next. The [ANC] pays heavily whenever there are public fights and bleeds profusely out of self-inflicted wounds."
Malema, who arrived at the conference hall late, when Zuma was already speaking, sat quietly as the president tore into the youth league and urged the NGC to take action against its leaders.
"It is clear that the time has come for the [ANC] to act. We must take a decision that those who engage in such activities are, in fact, undermining the organisation and its work, and, at worst, undermining the unity of the organisation. Action must be taken against them," Zuma said.
Malema's other objective ahead of the NGC was to convince delegates to expunge his disciplinary record relating to charges the ANC leadership brought against him earlier this year.
But if the massive applause of Zuma's insistence that the youth league was subordinate to ANC decisions is anything to go by, he has a mountain to climb.
"The ANC constitution clearly describes this relationship of the ANC with its own leagues . The ANC is not in alliance with its own leagues, nor are the leagues alliance partners of the ANC. They are structures of the organisation," he said.
A dejected youth league delegation held a caucus meeting during the lunch break at which its leaders argued that, despite Zuma's tirade and the obvious support he received from delegates, they should forge ahead with their mandate of lobbying for the adoption of nationalisation of mines as ANC policy.
Malema refused to comment on Zuma's remarks, saying the political report was still to be discussed by the NGC.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said it accepted the ANC's criticism and would discuss the matter when the two organisations met later this year.