African National Congress (ANC) Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize has expressed some regret for participating in slate politics and admits there were some disappointing moments under President Jacob Zuma’s leadership.
The presidential hopeful made the comments on Tuesday while in conversation with News24’s Frontline.
He admitted to his role in slate politics in the lead up to the watershed Polokwane conference, where Zuma unseated former president Thabo Mbeki as leader of the ANC.
"One of the things I am not necessarily proud about is that when we were going to Polokwane, I was actually the one who used to check that whole group that accommodated the slate of Zuma," admitted Mkhize.
He said this allowed him to speak on the matter from a position of authority as he now urged party members to abandon that way of politics. Mkhize said this often kept good leaders from ascending to power because they were possibly on the wrong slate.
Mkhize said he believed that there needed to be a spread of leadership, who the voting delegates at the ANC’s elective conference would vote for based on experience, skills and suitability to create a team to take the liberation movement forward.
"You want to avoid the factional slate where you want to elect numbers 1 to 86, [where] people just walk in and tick those names and leave out others. You need a combination where you can accommodate a spread of experience," said the treasurer general.
Mkhize also told the audience that since the Polokwane conference, there was a realisation that the ANC needed to get rid of the trend he once described himself as "being at the core" of.
"After Polokwane we realised that this thing is cascading to provinces, to regions and to branches and didn’t think it was a good idea," explained Mkhize.
He added that there were attempts to speak to Provincial Executive Committees in the hope to reverse the trend leading up to the 53rd national elective conference in Mangaung, saying they wanted comrades to contest each other without any tension around them.
Mkhize, who seemed in a jovial mood with just a few weeks left before he goes head to head with six other ANC leaders seeking to replace Zuma as the party’s president, preached unity and a need for the hopefuls to find each other so the party does not go into the conference divided.
The treasurer general also reflected on his relationship with Zuma, particularly with the president's legacy as leader of the party over the past 10 years.
"We have worked for a long time with President Zuma, like any leader will have their strengths and their weaknesses we must accept them. We don’t elect leaders thinking they are going to be perfect, we must just find a way to say how we deal with it if there are mistakes," said Mkhize.
He said their relationship, which has often been described as close, with some claiming Mkhize was "Zuma-lite", "Zuma’s fixer" and the president’s protégé, as one that was open and frank.
Mkhize said when things were wrong, they were upfront about it, discussed it and sought solutions.
The outgoing treasurer general, when pushed on the issue, admitted that there were some disappointing moments throughout Zuma’s tenure.
"Some of the issues are disappointing, but some of the issues are part of the complexities of the terrain," he said.
"If you deal with issues around the alliance it’s a complex issue that requires everyone to participate [in] very delicate relations. [It is] very different now than during the struggle where very different forces were at play. We are now governing the country, not everything works out as expected."
Mkhize, who gave careful and well-thought out responses over his views of Zuma’s corruption charges and whether or not he should be granted amnesty by his successor, shared his views on state capture and concerns around a judicial inquiry into it.
"We need a commission that will subpoena people and question them," he said.
"Whatever it is, it will help us for the future so that we are wiser [and] learn to understand after actions are taken. Those who get charged, investigated and acted upon, we need to then say from now on how do we become vigilant to make sure it doesn’t take root," he explained.
In giving another measured response, he defined the term differently from the president, who in an interview with ANN7 this week said it was nothing but political propaganda.
Mkhize said he believed it existed, adding that there were concerning allegations and emails emerging and that civil society, religious groups and academics’ views on the matter was worrying.
"Let’s learn from it. [It] might be hard and painful but we need to know exactly what’s happening," Mkhize said of the proposed judicial inquiry.