ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says that the “negative narratives” surrounding president Jacob Zuma hurt the ANC in the recent elections, but would not put all the blame on his shoulders.
Mantashe was speaking at a press briefing following the results of several big council meetings across the country, where the ANC was ousted by opposition parties.
The party said it has accepted defeat in municipalities such as Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Joburg, and would work hard from opposition seats to win back the confidence of voters.
However, the party also warned against policies – such as BEE and uplifiting the poor – being undone in those metros by the DA. Mantashe said that voters must be wary of entrenched inequalities popping up “like in Cape Town”.
Speaking on its losses, Mantashe said that the ANC was suffering from certain groups attacking the party from within, which fed out to the electorate. Voters chose to vote (or not vote) based on these mixed messages, he said.
The first challenge for the party post-elections is to unite the ANC, and then to engage with voters, or risk losing power in the next elections, the secretary general said.
To this end, Mantashe said that an early elective conference, as has been called for by certain groups such as the ANC Youth League, would not be a bad idea – but only as long as there was a clear end-goal for the conference.
He said that a decision on an early conference would need to be made as a collective, and after much discussion.
Zuma narratives a drain on support
When pushed on president Zuma’s effect on the 2016 elections, Mantashe reiterated that the ANC has acknowledged the negative narratives surrounding president Jacob Zuma and his many scandals.
He said that the president of an organisation cannot be separated from the organisation itself – and so each negative Zuma story hit and hurt the ANC.
However, he again reinforced that the party took collective responsibility for these issues.
He said a political party needs to be able to look at an 8% decline and reflect on itself as a whole, rather than “factionally” pointing fingers and assigning blame to individuals.
Referring to repeated calls for Zuma to resign, Mantashe said that it wasn’t an individual that led to the ANC losing support, and that leadership should be prepared to resign “in numbers” if such action would ever be taken.