Zuma takes tough stance amid challenges

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

ANC president Jacob Zuma has lamented that last year was "one of the most difficult" in the ruling party's history.

Zuma spelt out few details to thousands of people at a rally for the war on poverty campaign this weekend at Greytown in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

He was referring to how the party split into two factions when he was elected leader at its conference in Polokwane in December 2007. The ANC's new power brokers later fired President Thabo Mbeki. Many cabinet ministers then resigned out of loyalty.

Members of the old guard started a new party, the Congress of the People (Cope).

They were soon joined by defecting councillors across the country and the ANC was caught in such disarray that it did not even register its candidates for by-elections in the Western Cape.

"Last year had many challenges and this year has even more challenges: 2009 is important in that we have to elect a new government," Zuma said.

"We all have the duty to work together and build our country."

He said the ANC would continue to fight against poverty in the next five years.

"I want you to know that the government that you will elect for the next five years will prioritise rural development - people-orientated development and service delivery."

Zuma also urged provincial and local governments to develop small business in their areas. He said it was essential for small towns to be developed.

The ANC president used the opportunity to lash out at politicians who got into government but failed to deliver on their promises. He urged communities to remove councillors who did not perform.

Zuma said elected leaders did not hold their positions for their parties, but had to work and help their constituents regardless of their political affiliation.

He said he knew of councillors, especially in rural areas, who put party politics above the needs of the people. He said he was the president of the ANC, but that did not elevate him above his party.

"I cannot say I am leading the party, but I am representing it. The party has the power to recall me if I don't act according to its wishes. And so you have the same powers to recall elected ministers if you are unhappy with their performance.

"Only amakhosi were born to be in those positions, not elected leaders," he said.

As usual, Zuma led the crowd in singing Umshin' wami, which was followed this time by Senginamanxeba nxeba ezinsizwa engakhula nazo, which loosely translated means: "My body has wounds inflicted on me by people I grew up with".