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'We won't sacrifice Zuma for coalition'

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma will not be sacrificed for an African National Congress coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters, A...

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma will not be sacrificed for an African National Congress coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters, ANCYL treasurer general Reggie Nkabinde said yesterday. "It won't happen. 

Only when I am dead. Zuma is not going anywhere. We are going to do a nice farewell for him in 2019, when he leaves government and the ANC, to say he has served us well and best," Nkabinde told reporters in Johannesburg.

His was reacting to the EFF's demand that it would only form a coalition with the ANC in some of the country's metros if Zuma was axed. Three of Gauteng's metros were among the 27 hung municipalities in the country, where there had been no clear winners following last week's local government elections.

Nkabinde said he was happy with Zuma's leadership: "He is my hero; I am more than happy with him." While the ANC had some introspection to do after its poor showing in the elections, Zuma was not the ANC, he said. Support for the ANC fell to below 60% nationwide, it lost Nelson Mandela Bay to the Democratic Alliance, and failed to gain an outright majority in several other metros.
'We won't sacrifice Zuma for coalition'
Nkabinde said he did not believe the ANC had performed badly, only that it had failed to capture the metros. "Through Zuma we have increased our numbers. People love Zuma, they fill up stadiums to listen to him," he said.

Meanwhile, South Africa's main opposition leader proclaimed the dawn of an era of "non-racial" politics envisioned by the late Nelson Mandela on Monday, saying a bid by the African National Congress to highlight divisions at last week's local elections had backfired.

Mmusi Maimane, whose leadership of the Democratic Alliance (DA) since last year has helped overturn its image as a party for wealthy whites, called the vote a historic break with the past that could bring the DA into national government in 2019.

The ANC lost its majorities in Johannesburg, the symbolic Nelson Mandela Bay and the municipality that is home to the capital Pretoria, in its biggest ever election losses. The party that has dominated South Africa since the end of apartheid led the overall count, but the result dealt a significant blow to President Zuma ahead of the next parliamentary vote in three years' time.

The DA is now expected to lead coalition governments in two of these electoral districts and also boosted its majority to more than two thirds in Cape Town, which it has run since 2006, a vote of confidence in its ability to govern.

Angry about corruption, unemployment and poor basic services, many ANC supporters turned to the DA — making a switch that was unthinkable only a few years ago. "It's an incredible moment for our country," part-time preacher Maimane said, dressed top-to-toe in the DA's blue, from his leather jacket to designer shoes.

The ANC campaign focused on reminding voters of its role in ending apartheid 22 years ago, and of the DA's white roots, even comparing the party to the former apartheid regime. DA election posters featured images of 36-year-old Maimane in poor townships around South African cities, symbolising his role in broadening the appeal of the Alliance, rooted in a white campaign in the 1960s against white minority rule.

"The most historic thing about this election is people rejected the racial divisions and said its possible for black and white South Africans to work together," Maimane said. Zuma has dismissed Maimane due to his youth and lack of experience on a continent where age is often considered an important factor in choosing a leader.

Maimane, who has a white South African wife, came under personal attacks during campaigning from ANC members who say he is a puppet of a white elitist movement. One insult included calling Maimane a "coconut", implying he is black on the outside but white on the inside.

"I had to endure a barrage of racial insults. What you've got to do is to steel your back and carry on," Maimane said. "I recognise that they wanted to do everything in their power to win, to a point when you recognise it's a tactical thing to divide the nation along racial lines."

Maimane said he believes it is now possible to bring the ANC's share of the vote in national elections in 2019 below 50 percent, opening up the chance of the DA ruling in a coalition. With solid support in rural areas, the ANC still has majority support across the country, a reflection of its liberation struggle history and the significant improvement in basic living standards for poor South Africans since apartheid.

The ANC won 62 percent of the vote in 2014 national elections but only 53 percent in the local vote last week. If the DA is to govern nationally it will need to drastically reduce inequality and convince poor black South Africans that it represents all races.

Black people make up 80 percent of the 54 million population yet, two decades after apartheid, most of the economy in terms of ownership of land and companies remains in the hands of white people, who account for 8 percent of the population. Maimane has promised voters the DA will provide jobs, better services and eradicate corruption in the cities it runs.

"Momentum building going towards 2019 is about good governance. It's about proving to the public that we can govern nationally one day," Maimane said. "Where we've governed, we've grown everywhere. Where the ANC has governed, they've gone down."

The DA will now go into a difficult negotiating period over coalitions, possibly having to link up with the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose firebrand leader Julius Malema wants to nationalise mines and take land from whites.

"The initial phases have started," Maimane said of coalition talks, adding that local governments were about delivering services and not national policy shifts. "It doesn't mean I endorse the EFF's view on white South Africans or that I endorse their philosophy on nationalisation." AFP