President Jacob Zuma has for the first time spoken publicly of an attempt on his life, saying he was poisoned and almost died because of his stance on socio-economic transformation and land reform.
“I was poisoned and almost died just because South Africa joined Brics (the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa business communities) under my leadership, they said I was going to destroy the country,” Zuma said.
According to media reports, Zuma told members of the ANC national executive committee in November that there had been three attempts to poison him.
One of the attempts was allegedly carried out by his estranged wife Nompumelelo Ntuli in 2014 and ended up with Zuma being treated in Russia.
Addressing hundreds of supporters in Phongolo in the north of KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma said he had become a target for calling for radical economic transformation.
“Since we fought for freedom why can’t we fight for complete freedom. We are being attacked because we are asking for economic freedom,” he said.
The ANC Cadres’ Forum was the first event to be addressed by Zuma in his home province after he survived a motion of no confidence in Parliament last week where some members of the ANC voted in favour of his ousting.
He said the ANC should use its constitution to crack the whip on the ANC MPs who voted with the opposition.
He hinted that he wanted these MPs removed from Parliament, saying they had contravened the ANC constitution.
“That is why I want the ANC constitution to work. For those who have two consciences to make space (in the National Assembly) for those who have an ANC conscience.
“Those who say they have their own conscience are comrades who take the ANC for granted.
“Comrades should have an ANC conscience,” Zuma said.
He said the MPs had played with fire, adding that he would be “happy if the party took a tough decision”.
“We want unity in the ANC, where when decisions are made, all members follow those decisions,” he said.
Zuma claimed that the motion of no confidence in him was a ploy to ultimately remove the ANC from power.
“Not even five years after they voted (for) the ANC, they are now voting against it,” Zuma said.
He accused the MPs of aiding “enemies” of the ANC to divide a democratically elected party by trying to remove the party from power.
“They (opposition) are at a point where they are comfortable to remove us because they have infiltrated the ANC.
“It’s unheard of that an ANC member would go against the ANC. It’s even rare that ANC members want to use their own conscience,” Zuma explained.
He also accused ANC members who spoke ill of other party members in public platforms to be against party unity.
Zuma, who has been dogged by corruption allegations over his relationship with the controversial Gupta family, said he was yet to hear why he was being accused of being corrupt. “When you are friends with someone, is that corruption?” he asked.
He said his name was “not even on the leaked Gupta emails but it was always mentioned”.
Zuma also called on party members in the province to protect the ANC and be united in the run-up to the party’s elective conference in December.
“I ask you to be united because unity of the ANC is the only way to protect our freedom,” said Zuma.