?Plot? handled badly, admits ANC

THE African National Congress has backtracked and admitted that Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete damaged South Africa’s image by naming three prominent party members as allegedly plotting to overthrow President Thabo Mbeki.

Tshwete is to be carpeted before Parliament?s safety and security committee today, where he is expected to justify why he ordered a police probe into what opposition parties say is an internal ANC matter.

ANC national representative Smuts Ngonyama - who has steadfastly defended Tshwete since the minister mentioned on national television last week the names of Cyril Ramaphosa, Mathews Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale - on Wednesday conceded the matter could have been handled differently.

Interviewed on the SABC’s “Fokus met Freek” television programme on Wednesday night, Ngonyama acknowledged that Tshwete’s statement had damaged South Africa’s image.

“Definitely, I do concur with your assertion,” he told the interviewer.

“Having listened to some of our people who went abroad who were asked very strongly about the alleged plot ... it actually gave them a tough time.

“I therefore believe such statements do not add value to our country. They diminish the stability and credibility that has been the hallmark of our country,” he said.

Tshwete’s statement was based on unsubstantiated claims by former youth league leader James Nkambule.

Asked whether he trusted the three named by Tshwete, who have all dismissed Nkambule’s allegations, he said: “I trust them as members of the ANC and as individuals.

“Much as we respect them as members of the ANC, the information must be investigated to its fullest, so that these members can also be freed and the country can be rid of the general uncertainty.

On Tshwete’s role in the matter, Ngonyama said he had acted in his capacity as minister with the information at his disposal when he went on SABC television and announced that the three were under investigation.

Tshwete had acted on the spur of the moment without the benefit of hindsight.

Asked what this hindsight was, Ngonyama said, Nkambule, and not Tshwete, should have mentioned the names on television.

“Then it wouldn’t be held against the minister that he actually mentioned the names, whereas the names were there already.”

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