In a move described by his detractors as a political campaign, President Jacob Zuma yesterday handed over tractors and Nguni cattle to Eastern Cape rural communities.
Zuma first visited Peddie before going to Tanga village, Butterworth, where he, as chairman of the Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative, gave agricultural implements to the farming community. Masibambisane helps rural communities and coordinates assistance from the government and private sector.
But the blurred lines between the government and a private entity led to Zuma critics accusing him of using state resources to build a base for himself in the province ahead of the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference in December.
Zuma was accompanied by a number of cabinet ministers, including Tina Joemat-Pettersson (Agriculture), Edna Molewa (Water Affairs), Thulas Nxesi (Public Works) and Gugile Nkwinti (Land Reform and Rural Development). Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet was in the entourage.
An ANC national executive committee member, who asked not to be named, said the move was aimed at boosting Zuma’s popularity in the ANC’s second-biggest province.
“Those tractors come from [the Department of] Agriculture. Why do they have to be presented as [if they are from his] private organisation? Basically, the project makes the government look incapable of delivering on its own,” he said.
Zuma said his organisation was helping rural communities fast-track the implementation of government programmes.
“It meets the government halfway,” he said.
Though his rivals see this intervention as more political than assisting communities, the beneficiaries had only kind words for Zuma.
Phila Gcasamba told of the people’s joy at Zuma’s intervention and said it had changed their lives.
“Through this project, we have been able to benefit from the land. We’re now able to fight poverty and make sure the community is self-sustainable,” he said.
- Zuma’s visit was on the weekend that his support in the province seemed shakier than of late after the Nelson Mandela Bay region elected a leadership said to be hostile to him.
Nceba Faku was re-elected unopposed as regional chairman after the left-leaning Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Zanoxolo Wayile, on realising the odds were stacked against him, declined nomination.
The ANC’s biggest region in the province, OR Tambo, will hold its congress next month.