JZ attacks issues with unflinching honesty

Justice Malala

Justice Malala

It was a master class in how to prepare and give a great speech: open, courageous, short and touching on all relevant points.

Newly elected ANC president Jacob Zuma's first address to his party yesterday managed to go to the heart of many of the questions that had bedevilled his organisation over the five years of conference.

And, except for the issues that hang over his head in relation to his corruption trial, he dealt with each issue openly. As a first salvo in his ongoing attempts to rid himself of the societal abhorrence for many of the things he has done, it was masterful.

Unlike the circuitous and tentative manner in which Mbeki dealt with the deep divisions inside the ANC, Zuma was direct and called a spade a spade. He did not pretend that his vanquished predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, does not exist, but addressed him directly and called him "a comrade, friend and brother".

"I have known and worked with Comrade Mbeki for over 30 years. I must confess I never thought that the two of us would one day compete for the same position in the ANC. However, contesting positions does not make us enemies," he said.

On the disunity that has wracked the ANC over the past few years, he entreated his party's members for unity and held out an olive branch to the losers in his bitter fight with Mbeki.

"The leadership must not fail to address problems within the organisation . No one has won, no one has lost. The ANC has won," he said.

Zuma was equally honest and forthright on issues that concern the general public both about his personal conduct and his stance on other issues. He spoke strongly for the combating of HIV and Aids, gave a strong message on crime and indicated that international and domestic investors should not be concerned about a possible radical change in economic and other policy.

It was not a speech full of poetry, but it was full of honesty and a hard look at the issues of the concerns of the day.

Jacob Zuma surprised us with the full honesty of his speech. Perhaps he deserves a chance.