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Motlanthe calls for party unity

Mail & Guardian Online reporter and Sapa, Sapa-AFP

President Kgalema Motlanthe will not be easily influenced by the ANC's leftist allies to make policy changes.

President Kgalema Motlanthe will not be easily influenced by the ANC’s leftist allies to make policy changes, he told the Mail & Guardian in an interview published on Friday.

Asked whether his trade union background would make him more sympathetic to the policy demands of the ruling party’s allies, he replied: “No. The question is whether the policies they want to pursue are feasible, necessary and valid.”

Motlanthe, who was an education officer in the National Union of Mineworkers, said the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ attitude towards fiscal surpluses “is a matter to be debated”.

“But the reality is that if we had not followed that policy [maintaining a fiscal surplus], I don’t think we would have survived the current inflationary impacts.

“It has also somewhat saved us from the full impact of the financial and credit crisis in the United States and other parts of the world.”

He said discussion documents would be prepared for the alliance’s economic summit to talk about policies.

“But remember: policy formulation is sometimes hamstrung by lack of capacity.”

Motlanthe also brushed off speculation of a new political party.

“I really don’t believe there is much substance to these stories. I don’t believe any of the ministers who are steeped in ANC traditions of struggle will sign up for a breakaway party. But even if there is a breakaway party I don’t think it could challenge the presently ruling ANC,” said Motlanthe.

“Instead, if there are disgruntled leaders they should draw the correct lessons from the past few years and use that to rebuild the ANC into the powerful mass movement it always was.”

Asked by interviewer Ebrahim Harvey how he viewed the resignation of many of former president Thabo Mbeki’s Cabinet, he said some of the members had told him that they would not continue serving.

“Others indicated they would resign as a matter of principle because the [Judge Chris] Nicholson judgement in a way implicates certain Cabinet ministers. Some thought about continuing pending the outcome of the appeal, but I think they had doubts about the course of action. The ideal thing for stability would certainly have been for them to stay, but we respect their decision.”

ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday that the presidency’s announcement last week of Cabinet resignations, including that of Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, was made to collapse markets

“Thus far we have averted the crisis, even when the list of ministers who have resigned was released with the sole objective—that of collapsing the markets—the swiftness of our response averted the worst,” said Mantashe.

Tumultuous week
This week has been a tumultuous week for the party, with former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Transport Minister Jeff Radebe trading harsh words and the acrimonious departure of Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa.

In a “personal, open letter” to Mantashe on Thursday, Lekota said the “unusual situation that has now arisen in the African National Congress and the tripartite alliance requires extraordinary steps”.

“I wish to place on record the concerns I see as gnawing away at the ANC with the hope that the leadership might wake up to the dangers our movement faces.”

Lekota wrote that he joined the ANC attracted by its policies, political culture, values, history and its commitment to the interests of the country’s people—black and white—and was still fervently committed to this cause.

“However, for some time now, I have lived with a growing sense that our leadership has veered the organisation away from the established policy priorities and customary democratic norms of the ANC.”

Radebe responded by saying that members’ criticism of the party amounted to notice of their resignation.

“Put bluntly, you and those who share your views are giving notice to leave the ANC,” Radebe, a member of the party’s national executive committee, wrote in reply.

“For the record, the ANC is a voluntary association of individuals who believe in it, and who [are] free to leave as and when they cease to do so,” Radebe said.

“History is full of examples of such individuals. In the majority of cases, these were leaders who had grown too big for the ANC.

“These people could no longer subject themselves to the discipline of the organisation. As such they either had to leave voluntarily or be expelled.

“We hope we have not reached that stage in your case,” Radebe wrote.

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