Zip up, ANC tells Zuma
MANDY ROSSOUW, MMANALEDI MATABOGE AND MATUMA LETSOALO - Feb 12 2010 13:11
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The African National Congress (ANC) has given President Jacob Zuma a last chance to prove he can lead the party without scandal, but his support in party structures appears to have been weakened by the rumpus over his love child.
In Madiba's shadow
Zuma's African PR problem
A national executive committee (NEC) member closely involved in the love-child saga told the Mail & Guardian that the party has informally asked Zuma to "zip up" because the ANC will not survive another such scandal.
Zuma confessed last week to fathering a child with Sonono Khoza, daughter of soccer boss Irvin Khoza. It is understood that he was caught off guard when Sonono told him last year that she was pregnant.
He issued an apology last week after meeting advisers and party elders, taking responsibility for the child and expressing regret at the pain the affair had caused his family.
Said the NEC source: "We first thought it was a private matter. But we were surprised that the outcry did not come from white people or foreign media, but from our African constituency. They must vote for us to stay in power and we must listen to them.
"We realised that we need to change our approach or it will cost us in the 2011 local elections and beyond.
"We really want the president to zip up and make sure this doesn't happen again. If it does, it's over. We have nothing left to defend his conduct."
'We're forced to defend the indefensible'
The sensitivity of the issue meant that it could not feature on any formal agenda and it was not formally raised at the national working committee meeting on Monday in Cape Town. But members "made sure JZ understands the impact of this", a Luthuli house official said.
Those close to Zuma outlined to him in private meetings the untenable situation in which he had placed the ANC. "We're forced to defend the indefensible," the NEC member said.
ANC leaders are especially upset that Zuma has now "handed over the moral high ground to the opposition". But the apology gave ANC members some way of deflecting criticism, particularly in Parliament.
Party insiders said that although ANC members largely appeared to accept Zuma's apology, his support in party structures had taken a dive.
"I know a number of people were disappointed, but they've accepted his apology," said ANC's Mpumalanga secretary, Lucky Ndinisa.
Second term is not secure
Apart from those in KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape, provincial leaders appeared less inclined to give Zuma unconditional backing for a second term as ANC president.
Ndinisa said Zuma's second term is not secure: "When we elected him, we didn't say it was for two terms. When we go to Mangaung in 2012, the delegates will decide. At some stage, we'll decide what kind of a leader we want based on their conduct throughout their term."
Gauteng secretary David Makhura denied that he had previously said Zuma should serve two terms. "It wasn't about the second term. We were discussing the leadership of the ANC," he said this week.
Even ANC NEC member Billy Masetlha would not commit himself: "2012 is still far; many things will happen between now and then."
But Masetlha cautioned that Zuma should not be morally judged. "Zuma must lead us politically. I'm not suggesting he's an angel, but it would be unfair to judge him based on what has happened."
KwaZulu-Natal secretary Sihle Zikalala said Zuma still had the support of his home province for a second term. Northern Cape leader Alvin Botes said he was confident Zuma's conduct would now be above reproach, leaving no doubt about his eligibility.
"He's given us the assurance that it won't happen again, so our support for him is non-negotiable."
There was a poor turnout for this week's Zuma roadshow in the Cape. At the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release in Paarl on Thursday, less than a quarter of the expected 20 000 people turned up.
Leaders of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association, Women's League and Veterans' League still support Zuma unconditionally.
Said Women's League deputy president Nosipho Ntwanambi: "[The issue of the love child] does not worry us, it's between the Khoza and Zuma families. You must remember, he's also a human being and he didn't breach the Constitution."