President Jacob Zuma says the future of the governing African National Congress (ANC) is under threat. He  delivered his last political address as party leader after his 10-year stint at the helm of the governing party on Saturday, at the 54th ANC National Elective Conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg.

Zuma spoke of the need for unity in the ANC, which he says is threatened by factionalism.

“It is because of factionalism that we have seen the emergence of splinter groups over the past 10 years, which negatively affected our movement, both quantitatively and qualitatively.”

He has outlined issues that continue to affect the organisation negatively, saying factionalism is one of the key issues preventing the movement from growing.

“Scourges of factionalism, gatekeeping, ill-discipline, membership buying and infighting continue to afflict our movement. The leadership had to spend a lot of time visiting provinces to attend to these problems instead of focusing on building the ANC and leading the country to prosperity. Despite the challenges the ANC still represents the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of our people.”

Zuma says he holds no grudges against members who openly voiced different opinions to his. He has urged members to accept the outcome of the vote that will determine the new leader of the ruling party.

“I thank you all sincerely from the bottom of my heart. In the process of work of the ANC, I’m sure there have been times where we could not agree. There could have been times I said things that you did not like and there could be times that comrades said things to me and you must be feeling I am holding anger. Comrades, though I was told to step down, I want to say to you all that I bear no grudge. You are my comrades and expressed your views. I have no ill feelings because it is politics.”

The outgoing president of the ANC has warned against reckless actions by party leaders who are given the responsibility to make decisions affecting the economy.

“We have to act decisively as doing nothing almost guarantees that there will be little progress in the resolution of the triple challenge of poverty inequality and unemployment. On the other hand, reckless action will plunge the country into deep economic and social stresses. We must tread carefully, but act because of the serious economic challenges facing our country currently.”

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Conference gets off several hours later

The conference got off to a slow start, as delegates waited for almost seven hours before the opening. This despite ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe’s assurance, that the conference would resume officially at 2pm.

ANC Chairperson Baleka Mbete apologised to party members for the delay.

“We are starting rather late for which we apologise. There were issues that we had to attend to in order that we should run an orderly conference. We urge the leaders of all delegations to please assist in order for us to stick to the content of the prayers that were here today this this shall be a peaceful, orderly, disciplined conference worthy of the name of our leader, OR Tambo.”

Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Member of Parliament, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, are the front runners to succeed Zuma as party president.

Zuma has urged party members to accept the outcome of the vote that will determine the new leader of the ruling party.

“The ANC policy says no matter how strong you felt about the candidate, once the branches of the ANC have made a choice you have to respect that and agree to that point.”