NASTASSIA ARENDSE: In his first response to an avalanche of pressure from the ANC for him to quit, President Jacob Zuma, who has been dogged by scandal throughout his political life, proclaimed his innocence and said that he was being victimised by Nelson Mandela’s former liberation movement. When asked point-blank if he would step aside, he avoided the question and continued to allege a lack of principle in moves by the party’s national executive committee.
This is the audio.
PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA: There is nothing I’ve done wrong. What people are suggesting is a new phenomenon. I don’t understand some of the leaders, as they’ve been talking in the media, that we don’t need two centres of power. That’s not a reason because there are not two centres of power. I helped the comrades to remember that when we used that phrase it was during the time we were going to the Polokwane national conference of the ANC. What the state president at that time, who was contesting to be the president of the ANC for the third term – that would have meant the new president of the state – there would be two presidents for the period of five years. That’s when we said that creates two centres of power.
When the ANC conference came, when Bheki was now finishing two terms in the ANC, another president came in called Zuma, who became the president of the ANC while President Bheki was the state president. Of course the NEC decided to recall comrade Mbeki, not because there was a problem of us not understanding this period. The NEC felt there were specific things that President Mbeki was doing, so that they felt we needed to take this kind of action. When the NEC discussed this matter I was one of those who were one of those in fact saying, “We should not recall Comrade President Mbeki because we will be creating a bad precedent. Now, if you think and are going to agree on this way, then I have a problem with your approach and decision. I don’t think it is fair.” I even said to them “I’ve spent a bit of time in the ANC. At no stage I ever said to the leadership, “Your decision is not right.”
It’s the first time I feel a decision is not right. I think it is important for me to say this, because out there, in the narrative it looks like people are saying, Zuma is defiant. I’ve not defied. I disagreed with a decision taken. I think it is baseless, I think there is no motivation that says to me it’s fine, because in the ANC you need to be convinced with fact, even if you don’t agree with it. But I can understand taking this decision.
But this has been done in a manner that I felt I’m being victimised here, because my feeling is that the decision is not right. It is not based on anything that is either “You are wrong here,” or “This is what is done, you are disagreeing.”
I think it has been a misinterpretation that once a president of the ANC is elected, automatically he must become President of the Republic. That’s not the way we do things. It has been forced upon me now. Why? If there are reasons, if there were reasons at one point, I don’t think there would be any problem. I think it’s a kind of an ANC that I begin to feel there is something wrong here, because there would have been a kind of persuasion. Persuade, don’t just say, “We ask you to resign”. You put facts why we think you should resign. “These are they.” They are not there. I’ve never been told. So that is my problem.