Is the ANC wise to use Zuma for its fightback campaign?
The party in KZN is pushing Msholozi as the face of its campaign, seemingly unperturbed by the scandal surrounding the former number one
The ANC seems to hope to rely on the wisdom and counsel of the oldest in its ranks in the run-up to the polls, with former president Jacob Zuma doting on dozens of senior citizens in a party-sponsored breakfast banquet in Durban on Monday.
Zuma, the apparent campaign trump card, has been the headliner at “blitz” events for the ANC across KwaZulu-Natal since Friday.
“I am happy that the national leadership is using you. There are old men and women here who have secrets that they have never spoken about because they were taught never to disclose a secret ... they will die with it,” he said.
And while the image of the ANC took a battering at the state capture commission of inquiry during the testimony of public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, Zuma cajoled the seniors over a breakfast spread at the Coastlands Hotel. “It is our job as the ANC to help our people, and we need to ensure that veterans have a voice even if they aren't elected,” he added.
“This voice that is perhaps more powerful than that of the national executive committee. If the NEC is out of line, they [elder veterans] would have the power to call it back.”
Ever the raconteur, Zuma said party veterans were well placed to advise on the direction of the ANC.
“Even if you are old, you need to stand for the ANC as part of tradition. Even when those who lead the youth are out of line you must call them out,” he said.
“They know that you are no longer jealous or have the desire for positions, you are done. When you discipline them you are doing if for truthful reasons ... that is how it’s meant to be,” Zuma added.
He said divisions in the ruling party, which extended throughout its rank and file, needed to be countered.
“It makes me sick when I hear that there is fighting among our veterans. How are we going to discipline the youth if we are fighting?” he asked.
Unity within the party has been a common talking point for Zuma.
Speaking at a community gathering in KwaMashu on Friday, the former president said their constituents should be loyal to the party and not the man at the helm.
The party has been plagued by divisions, with the outcomes of provincial conferences regularly challenged in court.
This has, in the lead-up to elections, provided a challenge for the ANC, which is trying to project a unified front.
The rift is borne out of camps within the ruling party, one loyal to President Cyril Ramaphosa and another considered to be staunch backers of Zuma.
The latter camp had backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the ANC’s Nasrec elective conference, a move that ultimately proved unsuccessful.
Now, with the polls looming, the ANC seems resolute to consolidate its support in the province.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said the ANC was playing a risky game by using Zuma as a drawcard.
“The ANC is taking a political risk in rolling out the former president on the campaign trail. Whilst Zuma may have some remnants of support in parts of KZN he remains a visible reminder of the decline in the fortunes of the ANC and in governance in general in South Africa over the last decade,” he said. “By continuing to put him at the forefront of their campaign, the ANC also risks this being used by opposition parties to remind voters that the ANC hasn’t changed and the Ramaphosa ‘new dawn’ lacks legitimacy and credibility,” Silke added.