Zuma Plays It Cool Over Post-Poll Job
Deputy President Jacob Zuma yesterday gave President Thabo Mbeki political room to manoeuvre, saying he would not "demand a leadership position" in Mbeki's next cabinet.
It was Zuma's first public comment on the succession issue, coming amid speculation that he had become a liability for the African National Congress (ANC) following allegations he profited from the controversial arms deal by soliciting a bribe from a French company.
Observers have said these allegation have put the ANC in a quandary, making it difficult for Mbeki to appoint a different deputy who would also be likely to succeed him.
Zuma said, however, that he considered his future to be in the hands of the ANC machinery, and not necessarily the hands of a single individual.
"It is not up to me or individuals to demand or claim that they are ready to take over," the deputy president said. "We are all deployed by the ANC."
Zuma said at a meeting of the presidential press corps in Pretoria yesterday he would not be bitter if the party deployed someone else to succeed Mbeki as president. He did not appear to exclude himself from the presidential race, however .
Zuma dismissed perceptions of potential tension, infighting and possible political instability when Mbeki stepped down in 2009 after his second and final term had expired.
Zuma acknowledged concerns about the future of the ruling party beyond the tenure of a particular leader .
Similar concerns had been raised after Nobel laureate Chief Albert Luthuli stepped down, and also when former president Nelson Mandela left office.
The ANC had always built an abundance of leaders, he said. If there was a shortage of leaders, the ANC would have prolonged the presidency of Mandela in spite of his plea to retire, he said.
People were mistaken if they thought that the ANC was "about an individual leader", Zuma said.
"We are not surprised to hear people wondering and expressing doubt again, but we can assure you that there is no political instability in the ANC," he said.
The ANC had always prevailed because its concept of collective leadership and the training of young leaders had not failed, Zuma said.
Political analyst Phil Mtimkulu said the ANC should take offence at suggestions that it had a limited capability to produce quality leaders.
It was one of the few organisations that could "recall, at any point, some of its national executive members", and could redeploy cadres such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa.
With acknowledgements to Hopewell Radebe and the Business Day.