ANC president Jacob Zuma strongly disagrees with allegations that the ruling party has deviated from the Freedom Charter.

National convention supporters such as former ANC chairman Terror Lekota have during gatherings in recent weeks accused the ANC leadership of violating several principles of the Freedom Charter.

“We disagree with that,” Zuma said in Bloemfontein on Wednesday. He said this included the clause of “all shall be equal before the law” which, he said, “Terror keeps bringing up”.

“The ANC adheres to that very strongly up to this point in time. We believe in it, we fought for it,” Zuma said.

Referring to the National Prosecuting Authority’s attempts to prosecute him, Zuma said he had always, and in all events, followed the legal path in the matter.

He also attempted to explain why some people within the ANC had called for a political solution in the matter.

Zuma said this was based on the NPA’s attempts to involve South Africa’s media in the case, the NPA’s apparent leakage of information on the matter, and aspects such as the Public Protector’s finding in his favour.

“It’s not true that the ANC had changed against this clause in the Freedom Charter. The ANC has never deviated from the Freedom Charter.” Zuma, who indicated he was trying to avoid the subject of the “other organisation”, nevertheless told a gathering in Bloemfontein he had no problem with people who wanted to form a new organisation or political party.

“And, if they recruit, if they get members from any other party, they seem to be talking to everybody, we have no problem.”

The ANC was, however, not going to allow people to use the ANC structures to destroy the party.

“There we take a position,” he said.

Referring to the “kingpins”, Zuma said the party had settled its differences with them.

“Now, they are moving out there. Fine, no problem.”

Turning to election issues, Zuma said South Africa had to focus on dealing with corruption at all levels of government.

“Even if we have to lose friendships and comradeships, we have to deal with this matter.”

He said it seemed South Africa had thus far not come up with solutions to deal with it. “It is embedded in the tenders and the processes.”

Zuma also advocated tougher action against criminals. “Crime must be eradicated in the country. The law must bite in South Africa.” Zuma further touched on educational and health issues as well as rural development.

He would campaign for better salaries for police officials, nurses and teachers and he talked against racism, ethnicity and tribalism. “We are a rainbow nation. South Africa at times has hang-ups with matters such as race.”

He said at times a racial incident would be exaggerated and people would say South Africa was still “engulfed” in racism. “Which is not true. I think we have broken the back of that, we are all working as South Africans.”

Zuma also reached out to Free State farmers who urged him to stop politicians from insulting farmers. “People are condemned in a blanket fashion,” Free State Agriculture president Louw Steytler said.

He asked Zuma that comments on farmers be made in the same “fair and unbiased” manner the ANC was now propagating. Zuma has been in the Free State for the last two days addressing various civil groups, urging them to register and vote for the 2009 general elections.