Zuma rules out 3rd term, even if ANC begged him

The president said that he would not stand for re-election at the next ANC conference in 2017.

President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaposa singing the national anthem at the NGC in Midrand. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - African National Congress (ANC) president, Jacob Zuma, said he would never take part in elections for a third term as party leader, even if ANC branches begged him to.

The president told the Mail & Guardian at the National General Council (NGC) that he would not stand for re-election at the next ANC conference in 2017.

Zuma's remarks follow reports that the North West, Mpumalanga and Free State ANC structures want him to continue his term until 2017 and possibly contest for another.

Shortly before making his comments on third term as ANC president, Zuma said the party is not yet concerned with succession.

"Now it's not an issue, even if you wanted to make it an issue maybe I can feel I want to stand and then people say how can you stand, it could be a debate. It's just really to help people talking; it's not a matter tight now."

The North West ANC chairperson Supra Mahumapelo said if that is Zuma's decision, ANC members must respect it.

"On whether you can elect the president for the third, fourth, fifth or tenth term depends on the incumbent, like now the president has said he will never avail himself, we agree with him."

Furthermore, the party has moved to clarify Zuma's comments that he would never take part in elections for a third term as party leader.

ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, said the report was mischievous and that no issues of leadership and succession should be dealt with at the NGC.

Zuma said repeated discussions on the same issues at ANC conferences do not equate a failure of the party's policies.

He said an issue like the alleviation of unemployment is still as high on this year's NGC agenda, as it was in previous meetings.

According to the president, some issues are embedded in South African society and need continuous interventions to be solved.

Zuma said even during his time as a trade unionist in the 1950s, unemployment was still a major concern.

"I even participated in establishing what was called "unemployed workers union," because it was a big issue, it will always be a big issue."

He said joblessness is one of the long-term issues facing South African society and will not be solved by just one meeting.

Part of the ANC's evaluation has focused on finding ways to stimulate the country's economy and alleviate unemployment.

The NGC will today receive a report back to the main plenary about Saturday's debate in commissions.

ANC said its overall membership has not declined and a drop of around 250,000 people announced by Zuma merely reflects those who have paid their fees and renewed their membership.

The president said the party's membership dropped from 1,2 million to around 770,000 since its Mangaung conference in 2012.

Zuma said this drop is due to gatekeeping by leaders who wanted a smaller number of people in branches because it's easier to manipulate.

WATCH: Zuma happy with NGC progress

But on Saturday, the party said that a large number of people have actually joined the movement but are not registered on its systems.

It said the ANC grew by 150,000 people since 2012.

The party's head of elections and campaigning Nomvula Mokonyane said the drop in the number of members is due to people serving their own interests.

"We are dealing with it to ensure that there is no longer personal interference and gatekeeping. A number of these members were made to have their membership lapse by those who have selfish interests in terms of not wanting to see the ANC growing."

While the ANC's branches and senior leadership meet to discuss the state of the party's organisational battles and its performance, there've been calls for concrete solutions rather that rhetoric from the leadership.

There's been mixed reaction to ANC's frank admission of its state of organisation.

Wits University professor of governance Susan Booysen said the party has been non-committal in dealing with its most difficult issues.

"The tunes of corruption and factionalism, confessions that this is really devouring 'the ANC'. If there had been a strategy evident to definitively deal with those problems it might have been better."

Booysen said the party's discussion documents have not provided much support in dealing with governance at state owned enterprises.

"The delegates here in many ways I feel sorry for them because I don't think they are getting much guidance from the discussion documents. There is little that is definitive in or is new on governance."

Commissions will continue throughout the night and report back session expected in tomorrow's plenary.