/ 5 December 2007

ANC divisions run through Cabinet, says analyst

A reported spat between Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya and Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota was an indication of how the divisions within the African National Congress (ANC) were running through the Cabinet, a political analyst said on Wednesday.

Steven Friedman, research associate at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, was responding to reports about a letter sent by Skweyiya to ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, complaining about comments Lekota, also the chairperson of the ANC, made about party deputy president Jacob Zuma.

The Star reported that Skweyiya had expressed disgust at the ”anti-ANC” behaviour in an emotionally worded letter to Motlanthe.

”This is unacceptable and should not be entertained in the list, especially considering the case he is referring to is sub judice. I find this type of conduct un-comradely and totally anti-ANC. We might agree and disagree with Comrade Zuma, but conducting it in this manner is unacceptable and I appeal for your intervention,” Skweyiya wrote.

Lekota had reportedly accused Zuma of lying when he alleged that he was fired due to a political conspiracy against him. The defence minister said it was Zuma himself who had suggested he be fired from his position as deputy president of the country after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of fraud and corruption.

Skweyiya wrote: ”Fighting publicly, especially in this manner, is something that nobody had ever contemplated. I strongly feel this is unacceptable and I have been trying to make contact with Comrade Terror [Lekota] to express my views to him personally,” the report said.

Motlanthe could not immediately be reached to confirm the receipt of such a letter.

This is not the first time Lekota has come under fire for criticism, veiled or not, of Zuma.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) condemned comments made by Lekota that T-shirts bearing the words ”100% Zuluboy” — a reference to Zuma — were divisive and tribal.

He was also taken to task by the Zuma camp for condemning those who sang freedom songs such as Umshini Wami — a song often sung by Zuma — as being ”izibhanxa” (brainless or fools).

Friedman said the system of the South African government was that of ”collective Cabinet responsibility”, where the Cabinet was accustomed to speaking with one voice. Ministers criticising each other in this manner was an indication of how divisions within the ruling party were bubbling over and running through the Cabinet.

He added that while it was an ANC matter — Skweyiya was acting in his capacity as a national executive committee member of the ANC and not as social development minister — people were entitled to be concerned when Cabinet ministers were pitted against each other in this manner.

Friedman said the challenge for the government and the ANC after Polokwane, the party’s elective conference, was to deal with these divisions.

He said the battle for the party’s top job would likely get ”worse before it got any better”.

The ANC’s elective conference will take place from December 16 in Polokwane, Limpopo.

The succession race has led to the party being split between supporters of Zuma and backers of current president Thabo Mbeki. While provincial and league nominations for the party presidency have placed Zuma in the lead, possible corruption charges still loom for the deputy president. — Sapa