A combative President Jacob Zuma used his opening remarks at the African National Congress’ (ANC's) national policy conference on Friday, to hit back at a section of the party’s stalwarts who have been raising vociferous opposition to his leadership and the current state of the party.
“They have decided to have their own. I don’t know what it means but I will be really unfair if I don’t say this. Many of us have controlled ourselves, not to respond to these comrades, because we know them. Some of them are not as strong as they project themselves to be. We know them … but because we are keeping to the discipline of the organisation, we are not engaging them in public. And we will never engage them,” said Zuma to cheers from the delegates.
“I’m just talking here because these [the delegates] are the branches so that you know that this is what happened. In fact, quite a number of them, when they talk to the media they said there is no leadership in this country and they are very convinced that they are the leaders and people leading at the moment are just administrators. But that’s fine.”
Zuma said the section of veterans mostly communicate with the ANC leadership through the media.
“It’s very funny. It’s like now [they are] a real organisation operating, I am sure there must be an office or something. I don’t know, I’m just guessing but they are very organised. They organise the media, in fact they communicate with us through the media in the majority of cases. I was they said the level of the discussions here will be at their level, they need serious discussion,” said Zuma.
“So these are people who claim they have the values and the understanding of the ANC but the branches that are this organisation here, they think no it’s just riffraff. They want a discussion at a very high level.”
Zuma said that members of the disgruntled veterans “think they have power and everything”.
“We had a discussion, in an attempt to meet their request, much as it was really done funny by people who profess to be knowing the ANC. But we said maybe they had reasons. We had a discussion with them and ended up with a compromised decision that in the days we normally have the policy conference, we add two days, so that the first two days we would come with them and they would participate and discuss their concerns and the concerns of all of us,” said Zuma.
“They were later joined by some comrades who are former MK who call themselves a council. We had agreed that this would happen, but they decided that no, this [the ongoing policy conference] is not what they want. They want their own.”
The aggrieved veterans held their media briefing on Thursday where they indicated that they would not be attending the first two days of the national policy conference which kicked off in Friday.
They said they were planning a consultative conference set for September.
Another ANC structure, the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) national council has resolved to snub the entire five-day-long conference, with its chairperson Siphiwe Nyanda labelling it a “futile exercise”. The council said only a special consultative conference would save Africa’s oldest liberation movement.