12/05/2017 07:05 BST | Updated 12/05/2017 07:07 BST

Zuma Wouldn't Survive If The ANC Took The Moral High Road, Says Phosa

The president's political survival is happening "at the expense of the national interest and ... the ANC".

Leon Sadiki / City Press / Gallo Images via Getty Images
Mathew Phosa at the ANC Mangaung elective conference in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on December 17, 2012.

President Jacob Zuma has only survived this long because ANC leaders have chosen to take collective responsibility for his actions, instead of taking the moral high road, according to former party treasurer general Mathews Phosa.

Speaking to reporters after delivering a keynote address at the opening of a photographic exhibition titled "Promises and Lies: The ANC, Exile and the Project of Freedom" at the University of Johannesburg on Thursday, Phosa said Zuma's political survival was happening at the nation's expense.

"He is surviving so long at the expense of the national interest and at the expense of the ANC."

He said this was mainly because "comrades in the ANC" are not taking their responsibilities to the nation seriously.

"If they took their responsibilities seriously, they would never accept collective responsibility for corruption, it's wrong. It's wrong to take collective responsibility for wrong things. It is wrong for us to protect one another when we have committed wrongs, we should not do that. That's why he's surviving. When they start to take the moral highway, he won't survive," Phosa said.

As for his presidential hopes, Phosa said he is willing to join the race if he is supported by strong, incorruptible leaders.

"When the nomination opens up and I'm nominated, I will throw my hat in the ring," he said on Thursday.

The ANC's ward 52 in Langa, Cape Town, plans to nominate Phosa at the national policy conference in June.

"I said yes, I will accept. But I would like you to surround me with very strong leaders who are not corrupt, who believe in the Freedom Charter, who believe in our Constitution, who believe in one nation, who believe in reconciling our people, who believe in defining ourselves not at the standard of the enemy but at the standard of the responsible South Africans, both black and white," he said on Thursday.

'Promises and Lies'

The exhibition is made up of photographs and a short film documenting the ANC during its liberation struggle, at its base camps in Tanzania and Zambia, in the years prior to democracy. It highlights the military role of the party as well as leaders at the time, including Walter Sisulu, Ray Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Govan Mbeki.

A younger Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma - who worked with party leaders, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani and Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda - appear in some of the pictures, taken in 1990.

The short documentary highlights the difference between the ANC then and now. It features interviews with former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Independent Police Investigative Directorate boss Robert McBride and former South African Revenue Service commissioner Ivan Pillay, who reflect on the party over time.

Phosa said walking through the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture gallery, where the exhibition is being held, made him emotional mainly because the ANC had lost part of its core foundation.

"We need to revisit our history and learn from it. What made these people go into exile, take to war and fight? We need to appreciate their sacrifices, we need to engage the memory in a positive way and say to ourselves: 'What are the lessons from the past?'"

He said in 1994, when the ANC won the elections and took over as the governing party, it was so concerned with building a new South Africa that it shelved all the experience it had gained in exile.

"Now when we look at ourselves in the mirror today, we don't look like we looked in 1912. We don't look like we did in 1994. The values which they believed in, we are no longer representing them.

"We should go back and say 'let us start representing those values'. Let's anchor again from the lessons of what they represented," he said.

One of the ways the party needs to do that is by not condoning racism in the country.

"We cannot choose a path of racism, whether it's white racism or black racism, they are all racism, and therefore we cannot choose any of those paths. We know what white racism can do, we know what black racism can do, they are equally evil," he said.