May 4, 2012

Zuma butters up key voters

President Jacob Zuma’s campaign for a second term got under way this week as Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and Free State Premier Ace Magashule publicly backed him for another term and he handed out benefits from the state to potential supporters in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in a charm offensive.

At the weekend Zuma crisscrossed the Eastern Cape, the second-biggest ANC constituency after KwaZulu- Natal, and presented 14 tractors worth R4-million and Nguni cattle to traditional leaders and black emerging farmers in Peddie (in the former Ciskei) and Butterworth (in the former Transkei). The donation comes two weeks after he handed over keys to four new homeowners in Nkandla—his base where he has built himself a R64-million mansion.

Zuma’s multimillion-rand hand-outs have triggered complaints from some ANC members, who accused him of launching a premature campaign for his re-election using access to state resources. According to agriculture spokesperson Selby Bokaba the tractors were paid for by the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, but denied paying for the Nguni cattle. “[The department] has only paid for the tractors, which were procured for the whole Eastern Cape,” Bokaba said. “The tractors form part of the department’s mechanisation project, which is rolled out to the whole country.” Since its launch last year, Zuma’s rural project has drawn fire for allegedly bullying government departments to make donations. The M&G understands the initiative has angered a number of directors general in Zuma’s administration after it was presented in November 2010 as the Zero Hunger campaign to fight poverty and provide food security.

However, directors general were surprised when, a few months later, the Zero Hunger programme adopted Zuma’s Masibambisane rural project. Langa Zitha, director general for agriculture, defended the adoption of Zuma’s project, saying it was brought on board because it coincided with the Zero Hunger programme. A senior ANC leader said that there was mounting concern in the upper echelons of the ANC over Zuma’s apparent campaigning and said this would be raised in the party’s next national executive committee meeting. Another senior ANC leader from Gauteng complained about Zuma’s birthday bash at the International Convention Centre in Durban last month, where he used the event as a platform to campaign for his re-election. “People are coming to us to say they are being invited to behind-the-scenes meetings by the pro-Zuma grouping to discuss his re-election campaign,” the Gauteng leader said. “In KwaZulu-Natal [succession] debates are all over. This thing of Zuma throwing a party was part of lobbying. People are angry. Why didn’t he do it with his children? Why call a birthday party at ... such a big forum?”

ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola said the league would discuss in its upcoming national executive council meeting, among other issues, concerns about Zuma’s apparent use of public platforms to campaign for his re-election. Approached for comment this week, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe denied claims that Zuma was using public platforms to campaign. Mantashe said if ANC members felt that Zuma was misusing public platforms for electioneering, they needed to table their complaints with the party and not in the media.

The youth league and some senior ANC members want Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma as ANC president and Fikile Mbalula to replace Mantashe as secretary general. Although Zuma enjoys solid and unconditional support from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal as well as in Mpumalanga, he is desperate to win support in the large Eastern Cape area to consolidate his grip on power. (Mail & Guardian)


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