Durban - President Jacob Zuma’s opening speech to the ANC’s national
general council (NGC) meeting was a calculated piece of politics that
dealt a sturdy blow to Julius Malema
and highlighted how the president
of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) overplayed his hand, analysts say.
it comes to how politically astute this man is, people always
underestimate him (Zuma),” political analyst Sipho Seepe
He likened Malema to former president Thabo Mbeki
, who miscalculated
Zuma and the ANC.
Without mentioning Malema by name, Zuma was
blunt and drew rousing applause for his repeated statements about how
juniors in the party had to respect elders.
He also pointedly
reminded the ANCYL that it was not an alliance partner of the ANC. It
was one of the ANC structures and would, therefore, be subjected to the
“revolutionary discipline” that the leadership now had no choice to but
to implement in order to stop what he called “worrying tendencies”.
Another of the tendencies Zuma was forthright about was the abuse of lobbying branches and branch members.
lobbying has been a long-standing democratic practice in the movement,
he said that it had been reduced to ambitious leaders instructing
branches about who to vote for.Very dangerous
the ANCYL has already been quite open about the leaders it wants after
the 2012 ANC elective conference, Zuma slammed the so-called slate
method of electing leaders. (Leadership is decided upon according to
lists of members aligned to certain factions.)
“The slate method is very dangerous. This certainly corrupts the democratic processes of the ANC.
new dangerous method of lobbying has also emerged where comrades use
money to buy support. We should not have a situation where those who
have money turn members of the ANC into commodities – you are playing
with people because they are poor,” he said to resounding applause.
announced that cadres who took internal party disputes to court without
resolving them internally would be summarily suspended.
clear that the time has come for the organisation to act. We must take a
decision that those who engage in such activities are in fact
undermining the organisation and its work… Action must be taken against
Seepe argued that the speech showed a president who was in control and courageous enough to tackle issues and critics head-on.
thinks the speech will reinforce Zuma’s power for a second term. Zuma
painted himself as a leader who respected ANC tradition and processes.
He was sure to remind ANC cadres that unlike Mbeki, who had allowed
government to drive policy, he honoured the ANC as the political centre,
To reinforce this, Zuma said he had not allowed his
Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel
to release the
much-anticipated document outlining a new economic growth path for the
He had wanted the ANC and its NGC meeting to debate and approve this plan before cabinet publicised and implemented it.
was clear about what the policy process in the ANC was and how ordinary
members in the branches had to drive and approve policy (as opposed to
This drew much applause from his audience, made up
of branches which have been repeatedly told by Cosatu and the ANCYL that
the Zuma-led government has done nothing for them.
also underscored how the NGC would not be a place to consider policy
changes like Cosatu’s plan for a radical shift in economic policy or the
ANCYL’s call to put the nationalisation of mines on the agenda. Politically shrewd
said: “The speech left no doubts about the direction of the ANC, about
the fact that the president is in control and that this is a president
who can lead without antagonising his critics.”
He thinks Zuma’s
speech showed a man who was sure about his power base, especially after
having made the politically shrewd move of visiting all the ANC branches
before the meeting.
Andile Mngxitama, controversial columnist
and publisher of the independent journal New Frank Talk series, said
Zuma’s speech was to be expected. The big question now, Mngxitama said,
is the reaction it would elicit from cadres and from the likes of
“It seems as though Malema and Mbalula (deputy minister
of police and former ANCYL president) over-extended themselves,” said
He argued that Malema and Mablula’s misguided sense of their pulling
power was probably because they were once, during Zuma’s battle for the
presidency, powerful spokespeople for the disaffected.
however, Mngxitama was sceptical about whether Zuma’s speech or the
Organisational Review to be delivered by ANC secretary general Gwede
Mantashe will change the fact that policy debates in the ANC. He felt
the debates have become a smokescreen for leadership tussles and to
protect individuals on a mission to accumulate wealth.
of course, exactly what Mantashe is expected to deal with in his
Organisational Review which is, for the first time, being held behind
closed doors at this NGC.
The question is how credible
Mantashe's lambasting of cadres will be when Zuma’s family, his
ministers and their families are continually being linked to lucrative