The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) has thrown its weight behind former president Jacob Zuma’s re-emergence into the spotlight and has suggested his social media interactions would be a boost for the party’s election campaign this year.
In fact, the party body has compared Zuma’s “contributions to the public discourse” to that of late former president Nelson Mandela.
Zuma marked the first of his twilight years last year by surprising his supporters – and naysayers – with an official Twitter account, posting a number of videos.
Garnering many thousands of followers within weeks, Zuma has recently taken to the platform to speak out on the contentious land question. He stated that South Africa’s problems would all be solved if the land expropriation issue was addressed.
ANCYL spokesperson Mondli Mkhize said there was nothing wrong with Zuma playing more of a role in the “Thuma Mina” election campaign and in the general political discourse in the media, as former presidents have done before him.
“There are a number of issues that all former presidents of the state can continue to lead and contribute in the movement and to the public discourse.
“If you look at former presidents such as Nelson Mandela, he would have played a similar role to the one Zuma is doing now.
“The manner in which he is reaching out to the public – that is the role that that any former president should be playing,” said Mkhize.
“And, just like Mandela, while in office he will have made many connections in business, the private sector and the public sector in other countries which he can use in dealing with social and economic issues in South Africa and help create a better life for all.
“We think the way former president Zuma is playing his role is showing that he is a true cadre and a volunteer of the African National Congress.”
Mkhize added that the former statesman’s appearance on an ANC nomination list for the 2019 general election demonstrated the continued support he enjoyed in the party.
“The leadership would then take it upon themselves to say this leader and that leader do not qualify for nomination, but at the level of nominating it demonstrates some level of confidence that branches of the ANC [are in support of him],” he said.
Meanwhile, trade union federation and alliance partner Cosatu said it would engage the ANC leadership over the role which should be played by Zuma in the ANC’s “Thuma Mina” campaign and whether he should play a role at all.
The federation’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the organisation would make known their opinion on the matter after the ANC’s January 8 Statement.
“We are going to have that conversation closer to the January 8 Statement and we are going to have a lekgotla afterwards so we can have this kind of conversation. For now, it is too early to say anything [about the effect of Zuma on the ANC campaign],” Pamla said.
Zuma on Wednesday voiced his opinion on land expropriation without compensation, saying we were discussing it too much for his liking.
In videos shared on his Twitter account, the former president said he did not understand why, in 2019, South Africans were still debating on land when the facts of history were there to reflect on.
“We cannot change the facts of history, that after the Berlin conference whites came in and took the land. The wars that were fought, many thousands and thousands of people died defending their land. Some were removed from a huge stretch of land in the Western Cape in particular – our brothers, the Khoisan people. You can’t say those things did not happen,” he said.
According to the former president, freedom would not be “complete” if the land issue was not resolved. He said those whose land was forcefully taken from them should be given it back.
“You must know that the ills of black people in South Africa the bigger portion of it emanates from land dispossession. You solve the problem of land, you solve poverty in this country, inequality and economic issues.”
Zuma said selling the land to the people was not the solution either, as that would only prolong the “problem”. He said the ANC had not resolved to take land from current owners either, all that was needed was for those who have land to share it with those who don’t.
“If you want to keep the land to where it is now and sell it to people who have no money, you are prolonging the problem- a painful problem to the black people.
“I don’t know why we should be debating the matter, the matter is clear. We are not saying those who own land must not own land. We are saying, those who own huge stretches of land must share it with those who are indigenous, who owned this land before. We’re not going to dispossess them, that’s not the debate as I heard in the ANC conference. Let us make use of this resource to all South Africans.”
The former president has urged South Africa to follow in the footsteps of Europeans countries that don’t sell land, but lease it to those who want to use it.
“Why in our case it should be different? I am becoming more convinced that the drafters of the Freedom Charter were more advanced than us because they talked about the naturalisation of the land and that’s what the developed countries do.
“No land is sold to individuals, land is an important resource for the nation, that’s why the debate must be frank and straight and we must resolve the matter. We are discussing it too much for my liking,” he concluded.