President Jacob Zuma has again admitted that the ANC is facing a crisis, but subtly suggested that there was a conspiracy from within his party against him.
He appeared to play victim, comparing the problems besieging him to a mutiny he said once faced by the longest-serving party president, Oliver Tambo, who he described as an “exceptional leader of our movement”.
He said Tambo had at one stage faced a revolt by “leading comrades” within the movement who accused him of being a communist who was no longer following the incarcerated nationalist Nelson Mandela, “and therefore wanting to take over the leadership of the ANC”.
“They went around talking to influence the members of the ANC for a leadership change. I think it was in Morogoro, where Oliver Tambo said: Don’t listen to those who come closer to your ear with venomous gossip trying to tell you this and that.
“…They are the ones who do not like the organisation.’ That was one of the trying times of his presidency. His presidency was being shaken by our own comrades.”
Zuma was delivering the keynote address at Oliver and Adelaide Tambo’s graveside during a wreath-laying ceremony in Wattville, Benoni.
Zuma has largely been blamed for the ANC’s woes and the government’s troubles, because of his divisive leadership and the scandals associated with his administration.
He is fending off a storm of criticism from within the ranks of his party, civil society, the business sector and opposition parties – precipitated by his alleged meddling with the economy and his alleged corrupt relationship with the Guptas, who are his friends.
Zuma is also fighting off the release of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report – in which the Guptas are implicated – and the reinstatement of more than 700 corruption-related charges against him.
Admitting to the ANC’s woes, Zuma compared them to those faced by other liberation movements. “I think it is important for us to be aware that we have reached a point that many former liberation movements reached. After two decades (in power) the challenges become too many.
“Some (movements), they split, some they change the posture of their government,” the president said.
Zuma first admitted that the ANC was in difficulties in November 2014, when he said the party was “in trouble” and had been shaken.
“There are many people who will want the ANC to disappear and they are trying everything, because there’s no alternative.
“The youth league has been shaken and also the mother body has been shaken.
“We admit that the organisation is in trouble,” Zuma said off the cuff when he delivered his keynote address at the aborted ANC Youth League consultative conference in Soweto in 2014.
He was later stopped in his tracks from explaining further by ANC national executive members on the podium.
As the sustained calls for him to step down gain momentum, Zuma on Thursday reminded his comrades that unity was sacrosanct.
He appeared to extend an olive branch to his detractors calling on him to resign.
“Let us do things differently. Let us work on solutions and not problems. Let us be comrades, let’s unite. Let us not see enemies among ourselves. Let us not be divided.
“It is our duty, we who are in the organisation today, the ANC, the alliance… if there are difficulties, let us address them comradely and with dignity, because if we don’t, the task to lead this country will be more difficult,” said Zuma.