Fingers pointed at Mantashe

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe is under fire from the party’s Western Cape leadership.

Mantashe’s brash handling of potentially explosive matters in the party has caused concern in the province, Western Cape leaders have told the Mail & Guardian. Mantashe has shrugged off such complaints, saying that no province has taken a resolution on matter pertaining to his leadership.

Western Cape provincial leaders are unhappy because the ANC’s national leadership is blaming them for losing the province to the DA.
They were locked in a meeting in Cape Town on Thursday to design a strategy to counter the criticism they are likely to face at this weekend’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Johannesburg.

The Western Cape provincial leadership was neutralised by an elections task team that Mantashe appointed to devise and implement a strategy to retain the province. The team was headed by Chris Nissen, a businessman whom provincial leaders claim has no constituency and has not been in key leadership roles in the past.

They also claim the switch in leadership confused branches because the team was not an elected structure.

Mantashe has never hidden his disdain for the Western Cape. At a press briefing in February where he announced the new task team, he told reporters: “This is a DA white province and I don’t like being here.”

It is expected that the NEC will decide this weekend to disband the provincial leadership and call for new provincial party elections. The NEC will want to see someone take the rap for the loss of the province, say provincial leaders, and the axe will fall on them even though they had little to do with the election strategy.

Provincial leaders also complain that Mantashe “listens to the wrong people in the province” and therefore draws the wrong conclusions. One complained that the damage to the province was done long before the current provincial executive committee (PEC) was elected, but that Mantashe refuses to accept this explanation.

This has led to further divisions in the province because Mantashe’s chief advisers on these issues, the Youth League and the SACP, are considered marginal players on the provincial political scene. Their small membership figures show why they should not be considered heavyweights in the province, leaders say.

The province’s problems can be traced back to the appointment of Ebrahim Rasool as premier, the leaders say. They were forced to work with Rasool even though they told former president Thabo Mbeki that this would spell trouble.

At the recent provincial lekgotla in Plettenberg Bay, Mantashe was heavily criticised by Youth League leader Thandi Khululeka. But leaders in the province say the Youth League and the SACP are giving the PEC a “Judas kiss”—while publicly claiming to be on the PEC’s side they are in cahoots with those who want to remove them.

Other provincial leaders support these criticisms. “You can’t criticise the provincial leadership over the election outcome. If you’re criticising provincial leaders, you must remember they are not junior,” a Gauteng leader said.

Mantashe said he is not worried about the criticism. “If you work, people will criticise. If you bask in the sun, people will say nothing.”

Referring to the strife in the Western Cape ANC he said: “My leadership can be blamed, I don’t mind, they have the right to seek a scapegoat. Where there is conflict people want you to be a tool in the hands of their factions, but if I allow myself to be a tool it can catch up with me in future.”

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