Zuma casts doubt on ANC unity, calls on leaders to emulate Mandela, Tambo and Kotane

Former president Jacob Zuma during the Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture at the University of Zululand on December 19 2018.
Former president Jacob Zuma during the Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture at the University of Zululand on December 19 2018.

Former president Jacob Zuma has cast doubt on the genuineness of the ANC’s unity narrative and has questioned whether some party leaders meant what they said when talking about unity within the organisation.

Zuma has also called on the current leadership of the ANC to take a leaf out of the book of the generation of party leaders such as Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Moses Kotane who allowed each other to express their views without suppressing one another.

Delivering the Nelson Mandela Lecture organised by the King Cetshwayo District Municipality at the University of Zululand on Wednesday, Zuma deviated from his prepared speech to talk about the contribution made by the three leaders in shaping the ANC.

However, he singled out Kotane, saying he needed to be celebrated more for his contribution to the ANC "because one day when his story is told we will realise how much [contribution] he made".

He said Kotane did not take on the kinds of tasks that would make him like Mandela - who he likened to the biblical Moses of Africa - but said he, Mandela and Tambo had allowed each other to express their viewpoints without suppressing them.

"And those leaders had something very unique. They allowed each other to express their strong points to the maximum. They did not suppress them. That is why leaders could be more prominent while others were prominent too.

"If we are to remember Madiba, as we did the whole of this year, even if we talked about good things, unity and everything ... but of course some of the things we are doing when we are talking are against what we say. It’s unfortunate. That generation meant what it said. If only we can also raise the kind of leadership, because when all is said and done the ANC is the vehicle to change South Africa. You might think you can change it in other ways, you can’t," said Zuma.

The ANC’s unity mantra was adopted after the party’s elective conference in Nasrec in Johannesburg at which President Cyril Ramaphosa defeated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the party’s top job.

Since then ANC leaders have been calling for unity after the party was deeply divided between the pro-Ramaphosa and pro-Zuma factions which had relentlessly campaigned for Dlamini-Zuma ahead of Nasrec.

Quoting Tambo, Zuma warned that nothing could defeat the ANC except the ANC itself.

"If we truly remember these comrades let us truly remember them and do what they would like us to do: to bring peace and stability in the organisation because that’s the first condition for us to be able to bring peace and stability in the country," said Zuma.

He said although the ANC had developed the best policies, the country had not yet reached the final point of liberation.

"But it is not easy to reach the final point. We have not reached the final point yet. One thing we must remember is that when colonialism took place, colonialists colonised everything. Your political authority, your land, your resources in the land, your economy, everything.

"When we fight to decolonise ourselves, somehow - I don’t know how it happened - we ended up wanting to decolonise ourselves politically only. Other things we forgot about them. That they took the land and they made the laws that were not before because they had defeated us," said Zuma.

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