Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUPPLIED
Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUPPLIED

Jacob Zuma is on the offensive over President Cyril Ramaphosa’s refrain that the country is recovering from “nine lost years”, a tacit reference to his predecessor’s term in office. 

Zuma has taken to Twitter to hit back at his critics, but this is the first time he has directly taken on Ramaphosa, saying that when he took over as president, he  “never once blamed any predecessor or pointed to any perceived failing of any predecessor”. 

Ramaphosa’s message of a “new dawn” essentially means a shift from the trajectory that Zuma had placed the country on. On the campaign trail ahead of the ANC’s manifesto launch in January as well as in Davos last week, Ramaphosa referred to the “nine lost years” under Zuma, without mentioning the former president by name. 

Zuma taking on Ramaphosa publicly is a clear indication of his faction’s continued belief that the current ANC and SA president’s time at the helm is limited. A key Zuma lieutenant, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule told a KwaZulu-Natal audience in 2018 that it was “just a matter of five years” before his faction would regain control of the party. 

Zuma posted a lengthy piece on Twitter in which he details the “progress” made by the ANC-led government under his watch in the past nine years, including the provision of HIV treatment, the National Development Plan, increasing access to social grants, the building of two universities and free higher education. 

“Could we have done more? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes. Was it a wasted decade? No,” Zuma said. 

I never once blamed any predecessor or pointed to any perceived failing of any predecessor when I came to the leadership
Jacob Zuma 

Zuma did not mention that under his watch unemployment soared and economic growth faltered. Confidence in the SA economy fell to new lows as state capture took hold in 2015. The commission of inquiry into state capture, the SA Revenue Services commission of inquiry, the inquiry into the fitness to hold office of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) deputies Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi are revealing daily the extent of the rot in the Zuma-led government. 

Zuma also blames the leadership of the ANC in Gauteng for the province’s loss of three metros in the 2016 local government election, saying the dramatic slide in electoral performance was due to the province barring him from campaigning in the country’s economic heartland. 

“But how many bothered to take the time to acknowledge that this was the same province where this same Zuma had been rejected by some in the provincial leadership.… They did not want me to campaign for them in Gauteng — and they did not win any major metro. Even Ekurhuleni is governed now through coalition.”

However, Business Day at the time reported that after a 10% decline in electoral support for the ANC in 2014, party research showed that allegations of corruption and the Nkandla controversy had dramatically eroded the support for the party in Gauteng, hence the decision to prevent Zuma from campaigning in the province.

“Perhaps some in the national ANC should take a lesson from what happened in the Gauteng metros. We should be campaigning positively: we should be telling our people the truth of what we have done and will still be doing.

“I never once blamed any predecessor or pointed to any perceived failing of any predecessor when I came to the leadership. I focused on what we would do and achieve in the ANC, and we focused on achieving those things. There is no such thing as nine wasted years behind us,” Zuma said in the Twitter post. 

Zuma continues to campaign for the ANC, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, where there are indications that the party will post a poor showing in the 2019 general election and that the IFP is regaining support. 

The ANC’s head of the Presidency at Luthuli House, Zizi Kodwa, could not immediately be reached for comment. 

marriann@businesslive.co.za