Sunday, January 12, 2014

Zuma shielded against the boos

Extraordinary security measures were put in place as the ANC pulled out all the stops to avert another booing incident as President Jacob Zuma launched his party‘s election manifesto in Nelspruit yesterday.
Thousands of party supporters who attended the rally had to be preregistered and sit according to the provinces they came from as part of precautionary measures.

On Friday, Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane and his state security counterpart, Siyabonga Cwele, met disgruntled residents living near the Mbombela Stadium amid fears the community was planning to disrupt the event yesterday.

These unusual steps were taken in the light of the booing of Zuma at Nelson Mandela‘s memorial service at Johannesburg‘s FNB Stadium last month.

 That incident exposed deep-seated unhappiness among ANC voters about Zuma‘s leadership and the taxpayer-funded R208-million upgrade of his Nkandla homestead.

State security agencies were involved in the measures.

“This time around we are well prepared,” said an intelligence source involved in the planning. “We know where every bus comes from, and who the passengers are.

“The people were seated as provincial delegations so that it becomes easier to isolate and deal with any trouble.”

A Sunday Times survey last month found that 51% of traditional ANC voters wanted Zuma to step down, and preferred another presidential candidate in the coming election.

But the ANC used yesterday‘s rally to show Zuma as still being hugely popular. Party leaders such as national chairwoman Baleka Mbete went out of their way to highlight his popularity.

Mbete reminded the crowd that Zuma was re-elected as ANC president by a huge majority at its previous national congress in December 2012.

“The people who re-elected him were wide awake when they did so,” said Mbete.

A day earlier, at the gala ANC dinner, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe devoted a large part of his introductory remarks to singing Zuma‘s praises.

Radebe highlighted Zuma‘s struggle credentials, from his 10 years on Robben Island to his work for the ANC in exile.

Zuma appeared much more confident, jovially dancing to struggle songs and interacting with national executive committee (NEC) members.

As opposed to the scenes at the Mandela memorial, yesterday‘s partisan crowd clapped and cheered.

Zuma delivered electoral promises, which included:

  • Six million “job opportunities”;
  • A million “housing opportunities”;
  • 1000 new schools;
  • The roll-out of the National Health Insurance beyond the pilot phase; and
  • Cheaper private healthcare.
  • Zuma promised a clean government that would deal decisively with corruption.

“Public servants and public representatives will be prohibited from doing business with the state, and further measures will be developed to identify and prosecute corrupt actions by public servants and others.

“The ANC is very clear that actions that bring our organisation into disrepute will not be tolerated.”

He also talked tough against ill-discipline in the party.

“We repeat that we shall use all the measures agreed to at the 53rd conference to deal with instances of ill-discipline.”

But with Cosatu now divided, Zuma urged members of the federation to stay in the ANC.

“We must all work harder to guard against certain destructive and opportunistic elements that are trying to divide this alliance partner and our movement.”

Zuma was referring to a decision by Cosatu‘s largest affiliate, Numsa, to withdraw its support for the ruling party in this year‘s general election.

Numsa‘s withdrawal is a big blow to the ANC, whose traditional support base of black middle-class voters and the poor is being contested by new political formations such as Julius Malema‘s Economic Freedom Fighters and Agang SA, led by Mamphela Ramphele.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu acknowledged that the party had discussed with its branches the need to ensure that there would be no booing at the stadium, but said that he was not aware of state security involvement.

“State agencies would do nothing about incidents of this nature. We talk politics and discipline to ANC members and supporters,” he said.

While Zuma was being feted in Nelspruit, his bĂȘte noire, Malema, was hailed as a champion of the poor by the president‘s neighbours in Nkandla, reports Bongani Mthethwa.

Villagers at KwaNxamalala in KwaZulu-Natal cheered Malema soon after his hostile reception from ANC members in the area, including Zuma‘s eldest son, Edward. They threw plastic bottles, sticks and stones at Malema‘s motorcade as it entered the village before being dispersed by police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas, and sprayed them with water.

Armed police created a barricade around Malema, and escorted him into the village, where he was to hand over a three-bedroomed home to Standiwe Hlongwane, 31, and her two children. This is less than a kilometre from Zuma‘s homestead.

Malema criticised the government‘s slow pace in building low-cost houses. He said the government had built Zuma a palatial home, while millions of people lived in shacks.

“Any African who stays in a beautiful house like that and his neighbours stay in these shacks must be ashamed. Especially a person who has been elected by yourselves.

“He took your money and built a big house and even built a fence so that you can‘t access him. But when we were voting for him they said he is the man of the people but he has closed you outside,” said Malema.

Families, including Zuma‘s relatives, flocked around Malema, begging him to build them homes and create jobs.

Nkandla municipality, in which KwaNxamalala is situated, has a shortage of 14688 homes, according to the municipality‘s housing plan.

Among the villagers was Hlengiwe Zondi, 35, who abandoned her dilapidated rondavel about two months ago.

Her small plot, which has a rondavel and hut to store her belongings, is separated by a high security fence from

Zuma‘s homestead. “I‘m envious ... that [Hlongwane] family is poor like me. I am very happy for them,” she said.

Zondi, who has a support grant for her two children, said she had attempted to approach the president to help her repair her home. “On January 2, I walked right up to Zuma‘s gate, but could not get in to meet him because there were already a number of people visiting,” she said. “I‘m not asking Zuma to build me a home, but just to see that I‘m suffering. Sometimes my children go to bed hungry [and] that hurts.”

One of Zuma‘s relatives, Nsizwenye Zuma, 32, had waited since 6am yesterday to see Malema.

ANC supporters, who stopped to watch the EFF members hard at work, often chanted: “Angeke simlahle uNxmalala. Angeke simlahle uKhongolose” [We won‘t abandon the president. We won‘t abandon the ANC].”

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