Zuma second-term campaign on ropes
But ANC says succession to be settled in 2012
Feb 7, 2010 11:05 PM | By DOMINIC MAHLANGU, NKULULEKO NCANA, NKOSANA LEKOTJOLO and LAUREN COHEN
President Jacob Zuma is facing mounting dissent within the ANC with growing numbers of members now calling for him to serve only one term in office as head of state.
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UNDER PRESSURE: President Jacob Zuma speaks to ANC branches in Paarl in the Western Cape yesterday, ahead of his state of the nation address and the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison Picture: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS
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Despite Zuma's belated apology to the ANC and the nation on Saturday for fathering another child out of wedlock, a debate is raging - at all levels of the ANC - about his suitability for a second term.
Senior ANC members in Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape who spoke to The Times yesterday said while they accepted Zuma's apology, there was a growing call within party structures for him to step down as president of the party when his term ends in 2012.
"Look, what assurances do we have that we are not going to be hit by another scandal involving our president?" asked a senior ANC official in Gauteng.
An Eastern Cape-based official said: "The discussions that he should serve one term are not without merit under these circumstances. He will do the ANC and the country a big favour if he were to step down in 2012."
This position - confirmed by several other ANC members who spoke to The Times yesterday - is in sharp contrast to the situation after Zuma was elected president last April.
Shortly after his inauguration, ANC national executive committee member Tokyo Sexwale called on Zuma to serve two terms - a position supported by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and some members of the ANC Youth League.
But yesterday the revelation of Zuma's affair and four-month-old love child with Sonono Khoza, daughter of soccer boss Irvin Khoza, appeared to have severely damaged the second-term campaign within the ANC.
ANC members across the country who spoke to The Times said Zuma, who has three wives and a fiancée, "must face the music", while others said it was too early to talk of removing him from office, saying he must be supported.
Zuma, who last week tried to play down the scandal, caved in on Saturday, saying "I deeply regret the pain that I have caused to my family, the ANC, the alliance and South Africans in general".
The Sunday Times, which broke the story of Zuma's extramarital affair and love child, reported yesterday that he made his apology after senior ANC leaders threatened to publicly criticise his behaviour if he did not.
The newspaper said there were fears within the ANC that "unless something was done" to defuse the scandal, Zuma's actions could cost the ANC in the next election.
In his first public appearance since the scandal erupted, Zuma yesterday visited ANC structures in Paarl in the Western Cape. He appeared jubilant on stage, cheering and dancing after telling ANC members that they needed to work hard to win back the province from the DA.
But some party members at the gathering said they were still not convinced - despite his apology. Nomhle Titana said she was "very embarrassed".
"At his age, I didn't know you could make a child," said Sara Block.
Mzimkulu Khohlakala of the Witzenberg branch said he had not received the apology from Zuma that he was waiting for: "It's a problem for the nation, the president needs to lead by example and condomise."
ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu told The Times that any decision about Zuma serving only one term would be settled at the party's national conference in 2012. He said any ANC member had every right to speak out and have opinions about leadership, but that protocol would have to be followed.
"The ANC will never stifle debate, in fact we encourage our members to debate any matter on the table. Their views about the state of the organisation and its leadership will be settled in 2012 when we hold our national conference," Sokutu said.
ANC Youth League spokesman Floyd Shivambu said the scandal should not be turned into a crisis: "Zuma remains our president. We cannot elevate this into a succession battle. He has apologised and we must move on."
Cosatu, which played a critical role in Zuma's ascendency to the presidency, yesterday said it still supported him.
Its national spokesman, Patrick Craven, said Cosatu's position on Zuma serving two terms has not changed.
SA Communist Party spokesman Malesela Maleka said the party would not justify "non-existent" positions in the alliance.
He said the SACP would not fall into the "trap" of responding to individuals' peddling of and testing the "popularity" of their ideas.
Other ANC leaders said it was too soon for the ruling party to be talking about leadership changes. "We came from a painful past that led to [Thabo] Mbeki being recalled. We cannot always be removing people from positions every time there are mistakes. This [Zuma's latest scandal] will pass."
A member of the ANC's Free State provincial executive committee told The Times that the ANC and its alliance partners in the province still supported Zuma for second term: "His issue is not a constitutional issue but a personal one."
Zuma will today address the ANC's national working committee meeting in the Western Cape.