South Africa's ruling party, the African National
Congress (ANC) says it's confident it will win more than 70 percent of the vote
when the country holds elections in six weeks. Party secretary-general Gwede
Mantashe has guaranteed that the ANC will not tamper with South Africa's
constitution if it sweeps the polls and gains a large majority in parliament.
Opposition parties have expressed this fear, saying the ANC is set to change
the law to protect its presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, from prosecution for
views carry weight as he's third in the pecking order of the ANC behind party
president and prospective SA leader, Jacob Zuma, and ANC deputy president and
currentpresident, Kgalema Motlanthe.
from his office at the ANC's Johannesburg headquarters, Luthuli House, Mantashe
told VOA that the ANC was Zuma's "natural home" and that he deserved to be
president of South Africa by virtue of the "key roles" he played in the
country's struggle against white minority rule.
only weeks to go before South Africans vote in what's widely seen as the most
important polls since the nation's first democratic elections in 1994,
opposition parties continue to attack Zuma as a result of his alleged
corruption. South Africa's elite Scorpions crime fighting unit has investigated
the potential president for allegedly receiving bribes from a French arms
manufacturer related to the country's multimillion dollar arms deal.
Zuma will '"step
down" if convicted
ANC has repeatedly repudiated calls from opposition parties for Zuma to withdraw
as the ANC's presidential candidate.
has been having these charges hanging over his head for close to 10 years. They
have been thrown out of court twice. That's why from where we are seated, we
have said that this is not prosecution but persecution," stressed Mantashe. "Therefore
if he's persecuted, I think we will be playing into the hands of those who want
to weaken the ANC, if we withdraw him (as presidential candidate). We want him
to contest (the elections)."
however, added that if a "legitimate" case against Zuma is proceeding, and he is
eventually found guilty of criminality, the ANC will ensure that he "steps
down" as president of the country.
trial is set for August, meaning that South Africa could see its sitting
president being tried in a court of law on charges of fraud and corruption. The
country's constitution does not shield a president from criminal
opposition parties maintain that, if the ANC gains a two-thirds majority in
parliament after the April 22 elections, the party will change the constitution
to prevent Zuma from being prosecuted. But Mantashe denied that this would
ANC is (currently) having 70 percent in parliament. It has not tampered with
the constitution for (the past) five years. In the manifesto of the ANC this
year, there's nothing that indicates that the ANC is intending to tamper with
the constitution. And (if we gain) 70 percent (majority in parliament after the
next elections) – (we will make) no change (to the constitution). If we win
two-thirds majority, there is no preoccupation with changing the constitution
in the ANC."
Africa's Scorpions agency played the central role in investigating Zuma's
allegedly corrupt role in the arms deal. But the ANC-controlled government recently
disbanded the unit. Opposition parties allege that in so doing, the ANC is
seeking to protect its corrupt members and placing itself above the law.
maintained that the Scorpions had been disbanded because of "inefficiency," not
as a result of the unit investigating a senior ANC member.
explained: "The Scorpions consisted of (about) 600 investigators. They
investigated, on average, 325 cases per annum. You average that, and it means
that every investigator in the Scorpions investigated 0.6 cases per annum.
Obviously you can't defeat crime and corruption at that pace. That's why we
have opted for the establishment of a bigger, serious crime fighting unit,
which will also house the Scorpions and other specialist units."
assured South Africans that law enforcement agencies will continue to
investigate, arrest and prosecute any people who commit crime., no matter their
position in society.
parties, though, say there are many allegations of criminal behavior against
ANC members at the moment that aren't being investigated, despite ample
evidence against them.
No war room
also dismissed the supposed challenge posed to the ANC in the upcoming
elections by South Africa's newest political party, the Congress of the People (COPE).
Last year some senior ANC members broke away from the ruling party to form COPE,
and some analysts thereby saw the emergence of true opposition to the ANC's
dominance of South African politics.
said, "There are 156 registered political parties in South Africa. Forty of
those are going to be contesting the coming elections. And Cope is but one of
those parties. I am very cautious of exaggerating the impact of Cope in the
(South African) political arena. From where we are seated as the African
National Congress, we see every party as competing for the same space, we take
every party (seriously)."
ANC secretary-general denied reports that his party had established a so-called
"war room" in Luthuli House to "dig up the dirt" on COPE leaders with the aim
of weakening the party.
don't know where the 'war room' is; I am still looking for it. The people who
talk about it must go and point it out for me. So, to us, we don't think there
are special measures (we need to take) about Cope," Mantashe said.
as campaigning intensifies in South Africa, there've been several reports of
ANC supporters invading and disrupting COPE meetings and even attacking COPE agents.
sought to downplay this behavior, saying he hadn't received "any report of a
person who is dead because of an attack by ANC members."
than being a perpetrator of political violence, he said, the ANC was in actual
fact a victim of it.
have members who have died because they have been attacked by supporters of
other parties. Even in those extreme situations, we have not retaliated. So it
is an anomaly to accuse the ANC of being this bully boy who goes around
disrupting other people's meetings. And people can't point to any victim of
that disruption. We can point (at our supporters who've been victims of
political attacks); some of them we have buried."