President Jacob Zuma turned to God during his first public appearance for 2017, comparing the ANC to Jesus Christ, and calling on the party’s supporters to flock to Orlando Stadium on Sunday in huge numbers, in the same way Muslims travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
“This day is similar to the day when (Muslim) people go to Mecca. We often hear of people saying they are going to Mecca, in the Middle East, they always go there.
This is our Mecca,” Zuma said.
The remarks were made at a pre-January 8 statement party held on Vilikazi street in Soweto on Friday. This year’s January 8 statement celebrates the ANC’s 105th birthday. The party is the oldest liberation movement on the African continent and the second youngest government after South Sudan.
In an unscripted speech, Zuma made several references to “Christ, the son of man,” and the faith Christians have in his word.
“No matter what we do, we shouldn’t forget this day. Because this day is similar to the birth of the son of man … May the pastors agree,” Zuma said, while smiling.
“We believers never forget that, just like the son of man who came to wash away all of our sins, the birth of the ANC happened to free the people who were oppressed. We will never forget that, just like we don’t forget Christmas,” Zuma explained.
Zuma attended the culmination of a series of door-to-door visits and blitz rallies held by the party’s top six leaders, which include his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, treasurer general Zweli Mkhize and secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Speaking in isiZulu, the president compared the birth of the ANC to the birth of Christ and told the party’s supporters to attend the January 8 statement, which is their own Christmas.
“These things are the same, you can never separate them. The coming of the son, to wash away our sins, and the birth of the ANC to free people,” Zuma said.
“We moved from Christmas, which is the birth of the son of man, to the Christmas of the (ANC),” the president added.
The pre-January 8 statement party was held at the Sakhumzi restaurant and drew hundreds of people to the popular street which boasts the former home of late statesman Nelson Mandela.
This year’s statement will be delivered under the theme “Unity in Action” – a reference to the party’s divided leadership, which ended 2016 with an explosive national executive committee meeting.
At the last meeting for the year, NEC member Derek Hannekom tabled a proposal for Zuma to step down as head of state. Hannekom was backed by ANC heavyweight Naledi Pandor and Thulas Nxesi. But the motion was defeated after a three day discussion and in an official briefing a day later, Mantashe said the matter was considered closed.
Zuma repeated the calls for unity on Vilikazi street on Friday, stressing that only the ‘enemy’ benefits. “The reason to celebrate is that we know we’ve gone through difficult times and now we’re saying everyone come together and unite. Don’t fight among yourself, don’t be scratching each other, unite because if you do that, you are giving the enemy strength,” Zuma said.
Recalling the ANC’s history during the apartheid era, Zuma also appealed to ANC supporters to appreciate the party’s history in the same way they appreciate the Bible.
“This movement goes back a long way. It is important that we remind each other, don’t say I’m tired of hearing this … The ANC is something to be spoken about all the time, just like the Bible, which we speak about every Sunday but don’t complain that we always use the same Bible, let’s leave it. You see that these things are the same,” Zuma added.