South Africa's Zuma pledges ANC renewal to dispel doubts

Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:53pm EST
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By Jon Herskovitz and Peroshni Govender

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma, fresh from a landslide re-election as head of the ruling ANC, on Thursday promised to crack down on corruption and feuding that has shaken confidence in the party's leadership of Africa's top economy.

In a speech to close a week-long ANC elective conference, Zuma called on the 100-year-old African National Congress to "root out" faction-fighting and the use of money to buy members or influence within the party.

"The primary task of the ANC going forward is to work for unity," said Zuma, whose re-election this week ended months of feverish speculation over a challenge from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

"It is clear that the ANC is renewing itself already," a smiling Zuma told the packed audience.

By winning a fresh term to lead the ANC at the conference in the central city of Bloemfontein, Zuma has virtually guaranteed himself another term as president of South Africa through 2019, given the party's dominance of domestic politics.

Yet there are fears - both inside and outside the party - that Zuma has steered Nelson Mandela's former liberation movement away from its idealistic beginnings and into a morass of graft, cronyism and a corrosive culture of self-enrichment.

The party that took power at the end of apartheid in 1994 is seeing some decline its once-unassailable popularity, hit by charges that corruption has siphoned off billions of dollars meant to improve the lives of the country's poor black majority.

The ANC has admitted that members running local governments are often not up to the task, and pledged to set up an integrity committee to hold them accountable.   Continued...

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma celebrates his re-election as Party President at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings