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“Our people have told us that we come across as too busy fighting one another and do not pay sufficient attention to their needs,” Zuma told thousands of supporters attending a conference to celebrate the ANC’s 105th birthday.
But the conference was low on celebration and high on introspection.
There have been some in the senior ANC cadre calling for Zuma to step down following allegations of corruption.
In November, Zuma survived yet another attempt to remove him from power after a vote of no confidence in his leadership was overwhelmingly defeated in parliament.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), called for the vote a week after the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, released a report into “State Capture” (when private interests covertly influence the government’s decision-making apparatus.
But corruption is just the tip of the iceberg of problems facing Zuma’s government.
As South Africa enters the third decade since the end of Apartheid, the unemployment rate is at just under 27 per cent – its highest level since 2008, when the new inclusive measurement of employment was implement.
“Actually, if discouraged workers are included in the overall jobs assessment, the unemployment rate is closer to 40 per cent,” writes Thabi Leoka, an economic strategist at Argon Asset Management.
She says that lack of housing, poor infrastructure, high levels of corruption and cadre deployment mixed in with the above high unemployment figures have all added to the growing dissatisfaction, especially in poor areas.
Zuma is feeling the heat.
“We must give our people hope, we must unite against our common enemies, which are unemployment, poverty and inequality, and not against one another,” he urged ANC members on Sunday.
Zuma has indicated he will stand aside as the ANC elects a new party leader next year. And he will also end his second-term presidency in 2019, leaving the door open for a bitter challenge for the top spot as his party fights to regain South Africans’ trust.
The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies