President Jacob Zuma gave the strongest indication early this evening that the ANC may have abandoned or rejected the proposal that whoever loses the party’s presidency must automatically become the deputy president.
“You can not have more than one winner. Whoever wins will lead the organisation,” Zuma told delegates towards the end of his speech with the applause appearing to come from all angles this time.
“Those who lost must graciously accept being led. If you can lead you must be prepared to be led as well. It also demonstrates that we are not short of leaders. I feel sorry for some parties out there who are struggling and they have to go shopping for leaders, and they go shopping for leaders,” Zuma took a jab at some opposition parties.
He then shared with delegates what transpired during the now infamous “last supper meeting.”
“I had a constructive comradely meeting with the seven comrades in what was dubbed the ‘Last Supper’. I met all of them and all of them had worked with me in one form or another, they are all good comrades. We had a very wonderful engagement and we all agreed.
“Standing here I am waiting for one leader to emerge whom I am going to call my president. If he or she likes they can call me former president. Mhlawmube ngizoba [perhaps I will be a] former president nami [too],” he added.
He told delegates all the presidential hopefuls agreed that they will abide by the conference decisions.
“I want those who support each of them to bear in mind. It is your agreement. We must all unite behind the leadership collective that will be elected here regardless of our original preference which is democracy. The winner must be the organisation not individuals.”
He said the contestation and the outcome of the top six leaders, expected to be announced tomorrow morning, is an opportunity for the ANC to step up to the plate and respond to its “obligation to teach democracy.”
“This is an important moment to teach this lesson free of charge. We can differ on fundamental issues but remain comrades. I am convinced that the ANC will sail through the current stormy seas and emerge stronger,” Zuma told the delegates whose cheering was growing progressively louder.
He reassured the incoming leadership and his comrades in the organisation it was all in a day’s work
“There were times I said things you didn’t like and there were times comrades said things to me. Not long ago comrades felt I must be talked to about stepping down. I bear no grudges.
“You must know many of you will be my leaders and I will work with you. I know it is politics and it is your views. I respect those who express their views. With that, I now declare the 54th national conference officially open,” the outgoing president said to a wave of growing applause from the conference plenary.