ANC MPs seen as loyal to Mbeki fear the axe
Fear now stalks the corridors of African National Congress (ANC) power as the party’s new president, Jacob Zuma, asserts his authority in Parliament, the provinces and the party structures, the Sunday Times reported.
“Top ANC leaders were told this week that many party members feared being axed from government positions because of their perceived loyalty to outgoing President Thabo Mbeki, who was ousted from the party leadership in December,” the newspaper said.
ANC MPs made their anxiety known to deputy party president Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy secretary general Thandi Modise and national chairperson Baleka Mbete in a closed lekgotla (meeting) of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus on Thursday.
“Modise assured caucus members that there was no need for ‘uncertainty’ and ‘insecurity’,” the Sunday Times wrote.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the newspaper on the sidelines of the party’s Eastern Cape lekgotla that there would not be a purge, but added: “We cannot claim there is a moratorium on Cabinet reshuffles.”
At the Parliament meeting, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka distributed the government’s programme-of-action document but later withdrew it from MPs, saying it was confidential. That sparked concern among MPs who felt that the government “did not trust them”.
MPs were left with Motlanthe’s 45-page document outlining the ANC’s priorities for the year, the newspaper reported.
At the parliamentary lekgotla, Zuma told MPs not to perpetuate the perception that the ANC was all about people securing positions for themselves. “An MP said Zuma had told the caucus lekgotla that he was ‘personally bothered’ by the whispering campaigns.”
He delivered the same message to the Western Cape provincial caucus an hour later, accusing rival factions of leaking stories to the media to damage rivals when they could not get their own way.
In KwaZulu-Natal, business tycoon and NEC member Tokyo Sexwale said talks of a purge of Mbeki’s backers within the organisation were “mischievous”, the Sunday Times said.
An ANC insider attending the KwaZulu-Natal lekgotla confirmed, however, that there was a climate of fear, with people believing that Mbeki supporters would be elbowed out, said the newspaper.
“Definitely there’s an element of fear. When we went to Polokwane there was already an element of fear. There are comrades who were pushing for the third term [for Mbeki] and those comrades won’t get much support from those who were pushing for Zuma to become ANC president,” the insider said.
This comes as Zuma’s main backers in the Eastern Cape, the OR Tambo region, called for Mosiuoa Lekota to be censured for his attacks on Zuma.
Party leaders told the Sunday Times there were also moves afoot to oust Eastern Cape Premier Nosima Balindlela, but that others felt it was too late in the term of the current government.
The Sunday Times said it understood that changes were under way following the NEC’s decision that chief whips should be appointed from among its members.
Following the appointment of Nathi Mthethwa as ANC chief whip, speculation is rife that the ANC’s National Council of Provinces chief whip, Vusi Windvoel, and House deputy chairperson Peggy Hollander will be replaced by NEC members Sicelo Shiceka and Nosipho Ntwanambi.
A senior leader close to Mbeki said the challenge facing the ANC is to make changes carefully. If the transition is not handled properly, the party will be “at war with itself”, the Sunday Times said.—Sapa