The president of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) is sharply denying that the party is in crisis. Jacob Zuma said those who claim to supporters of deposed former President Thabo Mbeki are crying foul after losing the positions they are accustomed at last December Polokwane conference. Mbeki loyalists led by South Africa's former defense minister Mosioua Lekota are agitating and aiming to form a breakaway party ahead of next year's general elections.
The ANC has, however, suspended key leaders of the breakaway movement over their plans to form a new group, which is determined to organize a convention on November second.
Jacob Zuma told reporter Peter Clottey here in Washington that the ANC rebels are angry and are complaining about their inability to influence party decisions after failing in their attempt to win enough votes at the Polokwane Conference last December.
"No, the ANC is not in crisis. There are individuals within the ANC who are dissatisfied and who are therefore deciding or saying they are going to move out of the ANC. It is not a crisis and they are very few and these are people although not all of then, but few of them who are not elected in the ANC conference to remain members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), many of whom were cabinet ministers. When then the NEC decided that they should recall President Mbeki, they further felt that they are not happy about it," Zuma pointed out.
He said the dissidents are not expressing dissatisfaction with the party's policies.
"So, these are the kinds of people who are not necessarily saying there is a policy crisis within the ANC and therefore their views that are different, which you could call a crisis. And therefore, on the basis of that people are moving away because they've got these particular policies that they disagree with etcetera. What you see in these people is the anger and complaining and unfortunately it is a wrong time because they were not elected. They were never happy from the fact that they were not elected, so you can't call it a crisis," he said.
Zuma said denied that over 40% who voted for deposed President Mbeki at Polokwane conference, might defect from the party.
"No, that is totally out of order. It is a wrong assumption and people fail to understand that ANC. Those who voted for Mbeki are delegates and like in any other conference, there are percentages that come and once the final decision is taken the membership accepts the outcome. It is not 40% that we are talking about. That is the imagination of people who think there is 40% or something that is not at all. 40% were delegates who understand that in any contestation one side wins and the other side loses and once that happens, we come together behind the leadership and that is what the people have done… I know that people make that assumption, but that is not true," Zuma noted.
He said there was no reason for him to comment on militant remarks reportedly made by the youth wing of the ANC.
"What was I supposed to do? I have been persecuted for almost a decade and I have been quiet. Why didn't they say why were you quiet when you are being persecuted? I think people are making a mistake that when people speak then you should also stand up and peak with them. Generally in the ANC, the Youth league has been very vocal. It is not the first time, you might have heard of a youth leader, who was Peter Mocab, absolutely vocal and said things that at time made people to shake. Nobody say why are you quiet? I think it is not correct for people to take figurative expressions and actually make it as literal that this is what people mean," he said.
Zuma said the ruling ANC took action to address some of the remarks of the youth league, which some consider extreme and militant.
"But of course once those things were said I think the ANC engaged in an internal process of addressing those issues and that is how it has been addressing those issues with the youth all the time. Historically, if you know the icon Madiba (Nelson Mandela) said to the leadership of the ANC when he was the leader of the youth league, you would be surprised. The youth league is where leadership is prepared for the future," Zuma pointed out.
Meanwhile, former defense minister and leader of a splinter ruling party group said over the weekend that he would not be deterred forming a new party before next year's polls. Lekota announced his plans to break from the party, Africa's oldest liberation movement, after former South African president Thabo Mbeki was forced to step down as head of state due to a power struggle within the ANC.
Some political observers, however, say although the splinter group is gaining momentum, the new party stands little chance of actually defeating the ANC at the polls.
Mbeki resigned just months ahead of the end of his second and last term as head of state following pressure from the party, now headed by his arch-foe Jacob Zuma, who is tipped as a frontrunner in the 2009 presidential election.