'Zuma is Next President'
The ANC Youth League (Ancyl) says Deputy President Jacob Zuma will become head of state and leader of the ANC - irrespective of the outcome of the Schabir Shaik trial .
The unequivocal support for the embattled Zuma comes days before the start of what is seen as a major test of his credibility in the bribery and corruption trial that begins in Durban tomorrow.
Shaik is Zuma's financial adviser.
Ancyl president Fikile Mbalula told City Press that a decision by the ANC in Gauteng to open debate on who would succeed Thabo Mbeki as ANC leader in 2007 and president of the country in 2009 amounted to a call for a non-debate on a non-issue.
And, as soon as the league expressed its position, ANC leaders in Gauteng started frantically backtracking, with chairperson Premier Mbhazima Shilowa saying their call was not for a debate about succession in the presidency, but on other positions within the organisation.
Mbalula, elected president two months ago, described those calling for the debate as "disloyal" and "ahistorical" to the ANC's traditions by trying to sneak "foreign concepts" into the organisation.
"The issue of JZ (Jacob Zuma) succeeding President Mbeki is a non-debate, unless people raise 100 fundamental points on why he should not.
"We are saying that the comrades (Gauteng provincial leadership) are calling for a non-debate.
"The questions they need to focus on are: how can we change the lives of South Africans?
"How do we make the country a better place to live in? How do we build on the achievement of the past 10 years?"
The league described the Schabir Shaik trial as a sideshow which had nothing to do with the issue of succession in the ANC.
Motivating Zuma as the likely choice for the presidency, Mbalula said: "He grew up in the ANC and understands it very well, and is a leader with clarity about the ANC and the alliance as well as its culture and traditions.
"When we made him deputy president, we understood that he had been schooled in ANC traditions and we are not going to have surprise leaders.
"The matter of who succeeds Mbeki was closed long ago in Stellenbosch. We don't think that the movement is in a crisis of leadership to call for a debate. Stellenbosch has pronounced on this matter and there is no need to re-open it."
He added: "We are very clear about the fact that this matter of succession will be resolved according to the way succession has been dealt with in the ANC.
"Maybe in the next 50 years there will be a need for a debate on the issue of succession. Unless something happens, where someone dies, there is no need to debate the matter.
"We knew for a fact that the current president will not be coming back after the next conference of the ANC in 2007 and in the next term of government in 2009.
"We took those dynamics into consideration during the Stellenbosch conference when we elected the new leadership.
"This is not a race open to all, as we resolved this matter in the way we elected leadership then.
"In our view, the future leadership of the organisation and the country was represented in the individuals who were elected in Stellenbosch."
Mbalula said the Shaik trial could not be used to call for a debate on Mbeki's successor.
"The Shaik trial should not be used to call for a debate.
"The succession plan of the ANC is not linked to the trial, although we are aware that the trial could try to question Zuma's credibility and integrity.
With acknowledgements to Jimmy Seepe and the City Press.