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Sasco riled by Sexwale 'surprise visits'

Mail & Guardian Online reporter and Sapa, Sapa-AFP

So-called surprise visits by businessman Tokyo Sexwale to branches of the South African Students' Congress (Sasco) have raised the ire of the student body. "We demand a public apology from Mr Sexwale for bringing the name of our organisation into disrepute," said Sasco president David Maimela on Wednesday.

So-called surprise visits by businessman Tokyo Sexwale to branches of the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) have raised the ire of the student body.

“We demand a public apology from Mr Sexwale for bringing the name of our organisation into disrepute,” said Sasco president David Maimela in a statement on Wednesday. “The elected leadership of Sasco has been undermined by these surprise visits to our branches.”

Maimela said Sexwale, a possible candidate for the African National Congress (ANC) presidency, had made “surprise visits” to its branches at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Rhodes University and the Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape.

The motive for Sexwale’s visits was “some race that he is involved in”, according to Maimela, who added: “Maybe the succession race is the logical conclusion.”

He condemned the visits as they contradicted the “principled position” of Sasco not to take sides in the ruling party’s leadership race. “The visits are neither consulted nor sanctioned by the leadership of Sasco. As Sasco, we will not play a factional role in the ANC,” the statement read.

Maimela further said the University of Johannesburg branch was called in to “clarify” that anyone who wanted to speak at a Sasco branch must do so by liaising with its director general.

Last month, Sexwale addressed more than 500 students at Sasco’s 16th annual anniversary and reportedly told them he was prepared to be the next “voice of the people” and that he was ready to lead the country “if called by the people”.

Before Sexwale’s address at the Walter Sisulu campus, posters of the business tycoon with the words “Tokyo for president” emblazoned on them appeared on East London streets.

Sexwale’s spokesperson Chris Vick was quoted by the Daily Dispatch Online as saying that Sasco “obviously wanted to mobilise people” for the gathering.

Maimela said Sasco “did not sanction or approve” the posters and that he saw them in “newspaper and internet reports” only.

The ANC said in a statement on Wednesday that it regarded reports of the Sexwale posters as “unfortunate”.

“The ANC distances itself from this practice,” it said. “It urges all its members to approach the process of selecting leadership according to the established principles and traditions of the movement.

“We welcome statements by a spokesperson for Tokyo Sexwale that Sexwale knows nothing about these posters.”

The ANC is concerned that people inside or outside the organisation may use such tactics to influence internal constitutional processes or to cast aspersions on the integrity and discipline of individual party leaders.

“There are clear guidelines that ANC members need to follow when engaging the issue of leadership,” it said.

This month, ANC branches will hold general members’ meetings to discuss and make nominations for the election of the national executive committee. Branch nominations will be consolidated and presented to the electoral commission in November.

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