Zuma’s ‘Countdown to Victory’: You can’t be the ANC. You can’t beat the ANC.

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The ANC is the only party that has the experience and history to run the country, said President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday evening at the party’s “countdown to victory” launch in Johannesburg. As the ANC campaigns to retain key metros in the local government elections, the president confidently dismissed the ANC’s critics. By GREG NICOLSON.

© Greg Nicolson President Jacob Zuma does the dab, a dance move the ANC has worked into its campaign, at the ANC's countdown to victory rally before the local government elections in Johannesburg, 13 July 2016.
© Greg Nicolson President Jacob Zuma does the dab, a dance move the ANC has worked into its campaign, at the ANC’s countdown to victory rally before the local government elections in Johannesburg, 13 July 2016.

“There are people in this country who believe they can do what the African National Congress has done. You can’t. You have got to have the history, the age, the experience,” Zuma told an audience of ANC leaders and supporters at the Market Theatre.

“You must have gone through a lot of challenges and difficulties to run a country like South Africa and no matter how much they speak, other people speak very loud, some very angrily, it doesn’t work,” he continued. “You can be as angry as anything, you can be as loud as anything. The reality is that the people of this country know the African National Congress. It fought and liberated them. It has been in government for 21 years. They can see the changes that it is making and what it is making and it holds a view that in whatever it does it is tilted to the poor and the working class.”

Zuma was speaking to ANC leaders and supporters from across different sectors of society, including a number of well-known actors, musicians and sports people. The event included video testimonials from celebrities like DJ Sbu and Jessica Nkosi supporting the party, while the likes of Dr Malinga and Somizi were in the audience. The entertainment included ANC and struggle-themed fashion shows from designer David Tlale and his interns, which seemed to be an attempt to showcase South African talent.

© Greg Nicolso Models wearing David Tlale hold ANC flags during the designer's show at the ANC's countdown to victory rally before the local government elections in Johannesburg, 13 July 2016.
© Greg Nicolso Models wearing David Tlale hold ANC flags during the designer’s show at the ANC’s countdown to victory rally before the local government elections in Johannesburg, 13 July 2016.

The president spoke without notes and joked as he reflected on personal experiences with the ANC during the struggle. “Every serious citizen of this country knows that if you think about the country seriously you vote only one organisation and only one organisation only, which has a future, which says we’ll only rest when we reach the prosperity of this country. For now we are building this country,” said Zuma. “It’s the correct decision. It’s the decision that carries the future of our country.”

The president, who recently returned from a trip to France, dismissed criticism from both the DA and EFF. “You know, an empty bottle, if it faces the wind, it makes the biggest noise, an empty one. A bottle that is full, you face the wind, it says nothing,” said Zuma. “All the people who are talking so much in South Africa, they are empty bottles. They’re not doing anything. They’re not governing the country. We are governing the country. Let us not listen to them,” he said, also dismissing media criticism.

“This name, DA, ‘Democratic Alliance’, it was an alliance between the Progressive Party and the National Party,” said Zuma before criticising DA leader Mmusi Maimane. “It’s the only one of all the opposition that has the people who oppressed us. They still sit in Parliament today. Now if you are a black person, you join that party. Really? Really? It’s worse when you lead it.” He suggested that those who have left the ANC are confused and that the EFF was formed out of revenge.

The president didn’t touch on the scandals under his administration or some of the challenges facing the ANC, but, on the issues regarding the ANC’s candidate lists, which have seen violence flare up in parts of the country, he said it shows those wanting to be councillors can object to decisions through a democratic system, which is what Zuma claimed distinguishes the ANC from other parties.

With three weeks until the elections, ANC leaders will continue to campaign in communities over the weekend and will hold its Siyanqoba rally on 31 July at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Decline in support for the party between the 2011 and 2014 elections suggests the ANC could struggle to keep Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg, and the polls point to tight contests in all three metros, but Zuma was confident on Wednesday.

“No matter what people say, they talk too much because they’ve got nothing to say,” he said.

“Therefore you can look and look again. There is no party to vote for if you are a serious thinking citizen of South Africa, except the ANC.” DM

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