Zuma lashes out at ANC 'charlatans'

The African National Congress (ANC) intends to take “radical action” against suspended long-time comrade Mosiuoa Lekota, party president Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.

On Monday night the ANC announced that Lekota, a central figure in the struggle against apartheid and a former defence minister, as well as his former deputy, Mluleki George, had been suspended from the party.

Last week Lekota went on Talk Radio 702 and, in what Zuma described as a “media show”, accused the ANC of deviating from past policy and said he was “serving divorce papers” on the ruling party.

Lekota did not arrive for a meeting with the ANC last week to discuss his comments and, after a meeting with officials on Monday, he was suspended.

“Unfortunately, comrades, as we prepare for elections we have to deal with the shenanigans of some elements within the ANC who [want] to break away and form a splinter party,” said Zuma.

These people could not accept the democratic process that led to the appointment of Zuma over Mbeki as party president, and the subsequent recall of Mbeki by the ANC as the country’s president, he said.

“Today we are seeing patterns of behaviour which can best be described as charlatan,” Zuma said. “They go around the country attempting to cajole the membership of our movement into a rebellion against our organisation. We are not going to tolerate that.

“While recent events have been painful, they should not be used to undermine the ANC and its leadership.”

Zuma accused the splinter group of trying to “steal the Freedom Charter”, the document that sets out the ANC’s priorities and goals.
“In fact, they want to steal the Freedom Charter which is unlawful. It belongs to the ANC.”

He said “serving divorce papers” meant the party did not mean much to Lekota. “What does that mean? You are defeated in a democratic process and you take such action?”

Zuma said a special national executive committee meeting on Wednesday would discuss the matter “and take very radical decisions”.

“Our view is that we can’t allow people who are bitter about democratic processes to sow disunity and confusion within our structure,” he said.

Members were supposed to rally behind their leaders and “loyal members know how to raise issues in the party. The ANC is not a liberal organisation where people can do as they please and nothing happens.”

The party would act “very decisively” to rid itself of factionalism, he said, adding that history had been “very unkind” to breakaways from the ANC who realised they were on their own.

“It’s cold out there if you are out of the ANC, very cold,” he said, urging unionists not to take the disenchanted group seriously.

Issues raised
Zuma went through individual points raised by Lekota, saying he did not understand why Lekota said the party was deviating from the Freedom Charter.

There was no clause in the Freedom Charter that banned T-shirts saying “100% Zulu boy”, which were worn by Zuma supporters outside his various court appearances for rape, for which he was acquitted, and corruption, which was set aside.

Lekota had also complained that this was against ANC tradition, as was the singing of Umshini Wami—a liberation song repopularised by Zuma and his supporters.

“I don’t know where is the deviation in the Freedom Charter about songs. There is no policy in the Freedom Charter on singing,” said Zuma on Tuesday.

Lekota was wrong to suggest that Zuma was being treated differently and not in line with the charter’s principle of “all must be equal before the law”, said the party leader.

“Definitely wrong because the ANC adheres to the rule of law. What Terror [Lekota] is failing to appreciate is that in the particular case that he is referring to there is concrete evidence that there had been a political conspiracy and it was politically engineered.”

Zuma ended his speech by singing Umshini Wami, and this was followed by delegates singing “Lekota is a hypocrite”.

He was followed by Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who called Lekota’s statements a “publicity stunt” to drum up support for a new party.

More suspensions
Meanwhile, the ANC in the Western Cape suspended five senior regional members on Tuesday for undermining party unity, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The newly elected provincial chairperson, Mcebisi Skwatsha, said the five members included Mbulelo Ncedana, the axed secretary of the ANC’s Dullah Omar region in the Western Cape.

Skwatsha told a media conference that the five had been suspended because they undermined ANC unity and discipline.

Ncedana was among the organisers of a public meeting of disgruntled ANC members in Langa, Cape Town, on Saturday, which was addressed by Lekota.

A provincial conference in the Western Cape two weeks ago showed evidence of divisions in the ANC when Ncedana organised a separate meeting of several hundred people, claiming fraud in the way in which delegates had been decided.

The group said it had asked the ANC’s national leadership to intervene but that it had received no response.

The provincial conference elected pro-Zuma leaders and disbanded the executive committee of the Dullah Omar region, which includes the Cape metro and has about 30 000 members in 85 branches.—Sapa