KGALEMA Motlanthe on Thursday faced hostile songs and hand signals from African National Congress (ANC) members in Potchefstroom, in North West province, but continued with his lecture, heaping praise on President Jacob Zuma — whom he may challenge for the ANC’s top post in Mangaung in less than two weeks.
Mr Motlanthe on Thursday delivered a lecture in honour of Mr Zuma as part of the ANC’s centenary celebrations. Mr Zuma has given 11 lectures this year in honour of past presidents, and Mr Motlanthe, as the ANC’s number two, was asked to deliver one about Mr Zuma.
Thursday’s event gave Mr Motlanthe an early taste of Mangaung — if he accepts nomination — as ANC members in North West waved two fingers, signalling their support for Mr Zuma to get a second term. The ANC’s national elective conference starts a week on Sunday.
While Mr Motlanthe’s campaigners have pointed to Mr Zuma’s weaknesses as a leader in government as reasons for him to step down, Mr Motlanthe said on Thursday in his speech that under Mr Zuma the government was winning the battle against HIV and TB, which had resulted in a longer life expectancy.
"His mantra is that government should do things differently," said Mr Motlanthe. He said long-term plans for economic growth had been developed under Mr Zuma, including the New Growth Path and the National Development Plan.
Mr Motlanthe said he owed his survival on Robben Island to Mr Zuma. Mr Zuma was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1963, where he spent 10 years. The two men met in exile, where Mr Zuma "inducted him on what to do and how to behave" if he was arrested. Mr Motlanthe was arrested in 1977 and sentenced to 10 years on Robben Island.
Mr Motlanthe’s visit to North West could be seen as walking into hostile territory — coming a few days after ANC branches in the province nominated Mr Zuma for a second term in Mangaung, and ANC national executive committee Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president.
ANC North West provincial chairman Supra Mahumapelo at one point led the audience in a pro-Zuma song. It was expected that Mr Mahumapelo would want to assert his authority in North West after he delivered the nomination of Mr Zuma by a wide margin last weekend. However, his opponents in the province, who on Thursday sang songs in praise of Mr Motlanthe at a different venue in Potchefstroom, wanted the outcome of the nominations conference nullified.
North West ANC provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge — seen to be Mr Motlanthe’s chief campaigner in the province — cut a lonely figure on Thursday among disgruntled ANC members who signalled determination to overturn the outcome of the nominations conference.
Mr Mataboge said in an interview that his efforts on Thursday were meant to discourage the aggrieved members from taking their concerns to court before exhausting all internal party platforms.
After Mr Motlanthe’s lecture in honour of Mr Zuma, the hall broke into the song: "We will deliver Zuma in Mangaung".