Fri Oct 21 18:48:16 CAT 2016

ANC's young Turks unsettle opening of party's congress and shake up old guard by shouting down chairman Mosiuoa Lekota

By unknown | Dec 18, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

The much-awaited showdown between supporters of ANC president Thabo Mbeki and his deputy Jacob Zuma in the party leadership race happened on Sunday at the opening of the party's 52nd national conference.

Zuma's supporters won hands down.

Firstly, they reduced ANC national chairman Mosioua Lekota to a bemused fellow who had to seek solace in crying on the shoulder of party general secretary Kgalema Motlanthe.

The Zuma camp made it clear they had lost confidence in Lekota as a neutral chairman.

His attempts to take charge by calling for order fell on deaf ears. It required Motlanthe's intervention to calmthe boisterous Zuma supporters.

Zuma's supporters, especially ANC Youth League members, had indicated that they did not want Lekota to chair the proceedings because of personal attacks he had launched on Zuma.

Lekota had accused Zuma of lying about his axing by Mbeki after the conviction of his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, on charges of fraud and corruption.

Lekota suggested Zuma was playing the victim while he was, in fact, the one who had asked Mbeki to fire him. He accused Zuma of promoting tribalism by allowing supporters to wear T-shirts with the slogan "100 percent Zulu".

Lekota found himself on the backfoot again when youth league general secretary Sihle Zikalala introduced a motion calling for the manual counting of votes.

Lekota accused Zikalala of politicking because he had been part of the national executive committee where the decision to count votes electronically was taken.

In response, a delegate pointed out that the national conference, the ANC's highest decision-making body,did not have to abide by NEC decisions. In the end the conference decided that the votes would be counted manually.

The loyalties of the different camps also played themselves out in the singing, with delegates from Limpopo, Eastern Cape and North West supporting one another.

The Zuma supporters' songs, including Umshini Wami, were driven mainly by Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Free State - the provinces where he received massive support during nominations.

Sunday's proceedings have been described by some observers as open reaction of the ANC's young Turks taking on the old guard.

This challenge was obvious when the Zuma supporters refused to heed ANC general treasurer Mendi Msiamang's call to respect Lekota.

Msimang intervened again after lunch when the Zuma camp again reacted against Lekota. His pleas were drowned by the singing. Meanwhile, the question is who will come out victorious after the five-day gathering.

Judging by Zuma supporters' show of force, one is tempted to say Zuma is the man.

But the unruffled manner in which Mbeki presented his political report, some observers feel, could win a few hearts. It was expected that Mbeki would use the platform to attack the Zuma camp but he instead appealed for good sense, calling on the delegates to interrogate the causes of disunity in the party.


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