The youth league of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has welcomed former President Thabo Mbeki's call to party leader Jacob Zuma after the ANC won a general elections victory on April 22. Mbeki called to congratulate Zuma on winning the presidency in a landslide victory. Some ANC supporters downplayed the significance of Mbeki's gesture after they accused the former president of failing to campaign openly for the party in the run up to the vote.
But Floyd Shivambu, spokesman for the ANC youth league told VOA that the former president, who had disassociated himself from the ruling party after he was forced to step down last year, took a step in the right direction.
"The focus of the ANC is to ensure that the incoming government of the ANC focuses on improving the living conditions of the majority of South Africans. We have noticed what we have always known that a majority of our people are living under dire poverty, and that must be resolved quite quickly. And we have said in our media briefing today that we are going to be joining all people of South Africa, who are going to be saying that government must do more to better their living conditions," Shivambu said.
He said the ANC aims to address the numerous challenges facing ordinary South Africans.
"Nothing else is preoccupying us except the reality that a majority of South Africans must have access to jobs, must have access to better education, health care, quality, and decent employment. And must have access to a sustainable livelihood. And they must have access to all the basic services that the state has to provide to them now," he said.
Shivambu described as unfortunate accusations leveled against the ruling party after the opposition said the ANC had failed to live up to its promises to alleviate the suffering of the masses ahead of last month's elections.
"Look, the ANC went into the election campaign admitting that we have done a lot of things. We have achieved more, but lots of things still have to be done. That has been our election message, that we have achieved more, but more still has to be done. And we acknowledge that there are lots of challenges that still confront our societies, our communities in terms of service delivery, in terms of what must happen at the local level, and that is our message," Shivambu said.
He said the opposition parties were not fair in their criticism of the ruling party ahead of the election.
"I don't think there has been a major shift from opposition politics. Opposition politics always speaks like this whenever there is something happening. They always speak in that particular language. So we are not shocked about the message of the opposition," he said.
Shivambu said the opposition failed to take its message to the people, but rather accused the ANC of failing to keep its promises after coming to power in 1994.
"They always want to create an impression that in the 15 years we have had as government, we are going to achieve all the developmental promises we made in 1994. We are going to resolve all the developmental challenges which South Africa is facing currently. And that is not possible. South Africa has got a huge backlog in terms of all the service delivery on education, on housing, on electricity, sanitation … and on a variety of other things," Shivambu said.
He said the ruling party would maintain its programs of ensuring that the average South African is taken care off.
"The ANC is on track in achieving those objectives. And that is why the opposition are not focusing on service delivery. They're rather focusing on issues of morality and a variety of many things which are really not a major issue with the people of South Africa," he said.
Shivambu concurs with some public skepticism that Mbeki's congratulatory call was simply a publicity stunt.
"Look, it is not as significant as it appears. President Mbeki had to do that. And he wants to preserve his legacy and everything else. But there are a lot of things which were pretty doubtful about the former president of the ANC, comrade Thabo Mbeki. There are lots of issues we are also doubting in terms of his stance: what are his principles that guide him? Because there are lot of things which we still have to discover when time progresses," Shivambu said.
Political observers have described Mbeki's relationship with Zuma as testy since the former president sacked him last year from the vice presidency after Zuma was accused of having a corrupt relationship with his financial advisor Schabir Shaik. Some political analysts say the ANC received a significant pre-election boost when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dropped eight-year-old graft charges against party leader Zuma. Zuma and his supporters maintained the charges were politically motivated to prevent him from becoming president. The opposition sharply differed, saying the PA caved in to political pressure from the ANC. They contend that the dropping of the charges undermines the country's rule of law, setting a dangerous precedent.
Zuma was widely nominated to become South Africa's next leader after promising to tackle the country's escalating rate for violent crime, a condition which observers say could mar next year's hosting of soccer's World Cup. Zuma reassured foreign investors, worried that trade union allies like the Communist party would push him towards the left. Outside investors also fear that for the first time in 17 years, South Africa, the continent's biggest economy, may be entering a recession.
On May 9, Jacob Zuma is expected to become South Africa's fourth president since the end of apartheid. Former President Thabo Mbeki is expected to attend Zuma's inauguration ceremony.