Zuma needs to retain opponents if he is to unite ANC
JACOB Zuma's re-election as leader of the ruling party was widely expected, but the emphatic nature of his victory took even his fiercest critics by surprise.
The self-styled ''forces of change'' and their pick for president, Kgalema Motlanthe, were blown away at Mangaung as ANC delegates voted overwhelmingly to retain Zuma, despite his unimpressive record as president.
The other members of the Zuma slate, including businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, who stood for the post of deputy president, also won by a country mile. The slate system worked and party discipline was maintained.
At the root of the rout was the fact that though his opponents ran their ''Anyone but Zuma'' campaign - some observers would say it was a non-campaign - mainly through the media, Zuma managed to win the support of the ANC's branches.
His opponents were also not helped by Motlanthe's waiting until the last moment to play his hand, while the incumbent was able to use his position astutely to garner support without infringing ANC election rules.
For all his faults as president of the country, Zuma is a master tactician politically and was able to cobble together a winning alliance of key constituencies such as the labour movement, SA Communist Party and the ANC Women's League.
To his credit, Zuma appealed, immediately after securing re-election, for unity in the party - even as his most ardent supporters demanded the sidelining of his opponents.
The respected Motlanthe, a former ANC secretary-general, yesterday declined nomination to the national executive committee, but Zuma would do well to find a way to accommodate leaders such as Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa.
South Africa needs a united ANC if it is to meet the formidable challenges of growing the economy by attracting meaningful investment, creating sufficient jobs and equipping students for life in an increasingly competitive world.