President Jacob Zuma says he is just an ordinary man and he was shocked when the ANC said it wanted to throw a party for him.
Speaking in Zulu at the celebration event of his 75th birthday in Kliptown in Soweto, Zuma said his age was only a number because he was still going strong.
He said it had been a good year for him and he was thankful.
He had seen people come and go “in my time serving the ANC, seen some turn into cowards and some turn against what they had been fighting for”.
Zuma said he had also seen a lot of backstabbing in the ANC and it would take a lot to hurt him, including being called names.
“Maybe those who do so have stress. We do not know stress,” he said.
He said some people claim to know politics but they do not.
“Those called the opposition are talking the way they do. In truth, they are doing their job. As opposition they must oppose what others are doing. It is their job and if they do not do it then they are not in opposition,” he said.
Zuma said that “even if you cough the opposition will find something wrong”.
He added that they were not saying the ANC policies were wrong, but that the party was not implementing them.
“Do you not see them in Parliament standing and calling a point of order. They are trying to stop us from talking because they have nothing to say,” he said. That was why they always run to the courts when they lose debates.
“We must feel sorry for them.” He warned that “if your politics are not solid you may end up agreeing with them”.
Zuma also commented on the opposition march to Pretoria earlier in the day, calling it an empty protest because they could not provide concrete reasons why they claimed he was not ruling the country well.
He said even the new president of the ANC to be named after the upcoming national elective conference in December will be attacked “like Zuma was never ever there”.
“They are not attacking the person but the ANC,” Zuma said.
He said the ANC must continue working and ignore the opposition.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said “this was not the time to be weak and frail but to be courageous and strong”.
Duarte said Zuma had “shown dignity in the face of many years of being insulted for who you are and what you stand for”.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini wished Zuma to stay strong “during these hard, trying times, as a father, husband and leader”.
Dlamini said he knew the workers of South Africa also wished the best for Zuma.
“As you are my leader we continue to tackle those difficult issues and I need you to be strong all the time,” he said, seemingly referring to the trade union federation’s call last week for Zuma to step down.
Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association leader Kebby Maphatsoe said the opposition parties’ anti-Zuma march could not be ignored.
“Those people are stressing out there and we are celebrating here,” Maphatsoe said, adding that Zuma must “relax”.
“We want you not to stress about what is happening.”
He said Zuma was the “unifier” of the ANC and will lead until the ANC national elective conference in December and government up to 2019.
ANC Youth League secretary general Njabulo Nzuza said the opposition never liked Zuma anyway.
“Now that they have lost the vote they are marching in the streets,” Nzuza said. “We will not be misled because when you attack the ANC you start with the head,” he said.
He said the youth league would always be the first line of defence when the ANC is attacked. “When you hit on the ANC you hit on the future of this country,” he said.
ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini said the ANC was “led by a very strong leader who has protected the organisation of our forefathers”.
Dlamini said the best present for Zuma was to continue fighting for freedom.