South African President Jacob Zuma admitted Saturday that voters were “not happy” with the ruling ANC party as it began a five-day conference to elect his successor as party leader.
Zuma said in his keynote conference address that the African National Congress’s poor local election results last year “were a stark reminder that our people are not happy with the state of the ANC”.
Zuma, who has led the ANC since 2007, detailed problems afflicting the party, which has lost much popularity since Nelson Mandela led it to victory in the 1994 election that ended decades of white-minority rule.
“Petty squabbling that takes us nowhere needs to take back seat, our people are frustrated when we spend more time fighting among ourselves instead of solving the daily challenges they experience,” he said.
“Factionalism has become the biggest threat to our movement.”
The 75-year-old Zuma said the party’s poor local election results last year “were a stark reminder that our people are not happy with the state of the ANC”.
He blamed the decline in support on “perceptions in society that we are soft on corruption, self-serving and arrogant.”
“Our people are frustrated when we spend more time fighting among ourselves instead of solving the daily challenges they experience… Factionalism has become the biggest threat to our movement.”
Zuma, whose reign has been marred by graft scandals, will step down as ANC chief at the conference but will remain head of state until general elections in 2019.
The two front-runners for the party leadership are his ex-wife and former African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman.
The battle could split the ANC and the conference looks set to be acrimonious
The ANC is still South Africa’s biggest party by far, but the 54 percent it won in local elections last year was its worst poll result since the 1994 elections that marked the end of white-minority rule.
Opposition parties the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters are both hoping to exploit the ANC’s woes in the 2019 election, with one possible outcome being a coalition government.
Soaring unemployment and government corruption have fuelled frustration at the ANC among millions of poor black South Africans who face dire housing, inadequate education and continuing racial inequality.