'We had to back Jacob Zuma' - ANCYL's Njabulo Nzuza
The outgoing secretary-general of the ANC Youth League, Njabulo Nzuza, says the body has no regrets about its loyal support for former president Jacob Zuma.
In an interview this week, Nzuza, who is due to step down later this year at the league's national congress, said league leaders were ready to defend President Cyril Ramaphosa in the same way they did Zuma because the aim of those attacking ANC presidents is to damage the party.
Nzuza claimed their stubborn support of Zuma, which in part saw the ANCYL lose influence, was informed by a decline of the ANC at the polls. "The president was being attacked, it was a direct attack on the ANC, ours was to safeguard the ANC, that is why we went all out to defend the president - we will also defend Cyril.
"The intention was to isolate president Zuma but the ultimate prize was to damage the ANC. It's not Zuma who sits on the ballot, it's the ANC," Nzuza said.
"We could not afford to add to increasing voices that were criticising the ANC in public. That would not have been good for the ANC because we would have been throwing stones at a glass house that was already fragile," Nzuza added.
The outgoing leadership under Nzuza and league president Collen Maine has for years been criticised for being beholden to Zuma, failing to call him out for the decline in ANC support. But Nzuza said they adopted a strategy of quiet diplomacy because they wanted to influence the party from within.
Nzuza, however, conceded that perceptions that the league's leaders had been installed by the premier league - an ANC lobby group controlled by figures such as former premiers Ace Magashule, Supra Mahumapelo and David Mabuza - had harmed their credibility.