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Jacob Zuma seeks to mend relations with union allies at ANC conference

The south African President Jacob Zuma tried yesterday, at a major policy conference of the ruling African National Congress, to mend strained relations with his trade union allies, but shied away from offering left-leaning policies that would secure his standing among his traditional backers.

Mr Zuma, who is striving to shore up his authority, rejected suggestions that his governing alliance with Cosatu, the trades union federation, is in trouble as he looks to re-election in 2014. But he failed to back calls from Cosatu to nationalise some mines in the world's biggest producer of platinum and the fourth-largest producer of gold, or to engineer a fall in the strong rand currency.

Mr Zuma, already seen by analysts as an ineffective leader, could leave the ANC's most important meetings in years in a weakened position if he fails to hold on to the old allies or to win over some new ones. He also has to be seen to rein in the ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who has threatened not to back him for second term in 2014.

Mr Zuma warned the Youth League, which is also pushing for the nationalisation of mines, to respect senior leaders. But Mr Malema brushed off the rebuke. "It is the responsibility of a parent to chastise a child," he said.