SA at boiling point, Zuma warns ANC
SOUTH Africa has reached boiling point and needs radical policy changes to quell the rising anger of ordinary citizens.
Explaining his backing of the hotly debated "second transition" policy proposal, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday that the ANC could no longer sit back and watch its people live in squalor.
Zuma, now three years in office, confessed to sleepless nights after seeing extreme poverty.
But, he warned, South Africa could not afford to be a country of "social grants".
Yet the ANC agreed at its previous elective conference, in Polokwane, to extend eligibility for child grants to 18 years and to set the pensionable age for men and women at 65.
Speaking to journalists at the ANC policy conference in Midrand, Zuma said South Africa needed solutions to rising poverty and unemployment.
"I have paid visits to a number of areas where you can't believe that you are in South Africa. Why should I see that as the president of the country, not even of the ANC, and think that I could sleep peacefully when I know there are people who live in things you can't even describe as a house?"
As president of a party meant to improve the quality of life of the poor, Zuma said, he could not be silent on such critical issues.
"It's a very serious matter . If I didn't know, or if I had forgotten [why I joined the struggle and fought to liberate people of this country], then I could sleep peacefully. I can't," he said.
Though Zuma strongly pushed, in both his opening address and subsequent press conference, for a second transition, some ANC members remained sceptical.
They expressed a cynical view of the proposal, saying it was full of "Marxist jargon" and was just an "expression of analytical impatience" and a "buy-in" to get Zuma re-elected as party president in Mangaung in December.
The ANC in Gauteng, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Western Cape have rejected the second transition document.
Gauteng said it was not convinced that "the introduction of this inadequately theorised thesis helps us to respond strategically, consistently and adequately to the triple fault-lines of unemployment, poverty and inequality".
Two weeks ago, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe - widely regarded as Zuma's main rival for the ANC presidency - disparaged the concept: "Second transition! Second transition! Second transition! From what, from where to where? What constituted the first transition?
"What were the tasks of that phase? Have all those tasks been accomplished or not," Motlanthe said at a public lecture.
But Zuma yesterday dismissed the view that the document was his personal re-election agenda, saying it was the concept of an organisation, not an individual.
"If the conference fails to decide on these matters, it will be the ANC that failed . it will be a reflection of the ANC and not of an individual.
"Every day as I wake up, my worry is what do you do with the conditions of these [poor] people. And I know them. Therefore part of what these documents are [trying to do] is deal with this reality."
The prospect of Mangaung loomed large yesterday as delegates discussed policy documents in relation to the coming leadership battle.
Over the next three days, delegates will deliberate on the policy proposals. Their resolutions will be tabled in Mangaung.
Though the elective conference is six months away, the signs of division were clearly visible during the opening session of the conference.
Shortly after Zuma delivered his opening address, delegates from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga broke into song in praise of him. In contrast, Gauteng and Limpopo members were silent.
Zuma later defended the singing, saying it was ANC tradition to sing about its leaders.