ANC calls on Ginwala to 'clarify' her comments

The African National Congress (ANC) was “utterly disappointed” in former Parliamentary speaker, Frene Ginwala, over comments she made to the Sunday Times bemoaning the lack of political leadership in South Africa.

Party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the ANC would meet Ginwala, who until 2007 was a member of its national executive committee, to “clarify” what she told the newspaper about the country and President Jacob Zuma.

“We are disappointed that we had to call Miss Ginwala on this matter and that she did not have the decency to call the ANC leadership or the president to put her side of the story,” Mthembu said in a statement.

“In our meeting with Miss Ginwala, we want her to clarify what she said and the context in which she did so.”

The Sunday Times report quotes Ginwala saying Zuma’s decision to grant pay increases to government officials highlighted the “inferior quality of political leadership” in South Africa.

“Look at the level of political leadership in this country. It’s not very good. How many of our leaders lead by example?” she was quoted as saying.

She said the party’s failure to reign in ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for insulting older people was another example of poor leadership.

“We don’t teach our youth to respect elders.
And [it is worse] when the young political leadership doesn’t respect elders. You [do not] get senior leadership complaining about it.

“You start in the home and ask how much respect is there?” she said.

This referred to statements Malema made about former President Thabo Mbeki when the league wanted him removed from the presidency.

Ginwala, in a bid to clarify her criticism of Zuma, said she did not only criticise him, but praised him as well.

In a letter to the newspaper on Monday, she said: “A report of the discussions at the meeting, had you carried any, would have included praise for President Zuma’s policies on HIV/Aids and in particular his statement that he had taken and would be taking an Aids test.”

She said her discussion with the journalist touched on many topics. It took place at a meeting of the Coalition for a Dialogue on Africa which was discussing Africa’s Response to the Global Financial Crisis.

“I see no report of this meeting, though in response to a question your reporter replied that he was writing about the meeting,” wrote Ginwala.

Mthembu said criticism that Zuma was failing to lead the country was “not borne out of facts”.

“Any assertion that there is no political leadership in the country is devoid of all truth and should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves,” he said.

The 2010 World Cup draw, which took place on Friday, was cited as an example of Zuma’s leadership. Another was his World Aids Day address, which heralded a shift from government’s previously criticised stance on HIV/Aids.

“The ANC would further like to remind any Doubting Thomases that President Zuma is his own man, not a copycat of any person when it comes to dealing with matters before him. He takes his mandate from the ANC collective and the people of South Africa,” Mthembu said.

He further cited the president’s handling of the recession as an example of his leadership.

“Had Miss Ginwala had the decency to call the ANC leadership or President Zuma on whatever it is that she said about him, she would have in all likelihood arrived at the same conclusion as all of us, that in President Zuma we have a humble down to earth leader whose only preoccupation is to better the lives of all South Africans, particularly the rural poor.”

Mthembu urged Ginwala to raise matters she was unhappy about with the ANC leadership and not with the media.—Sapa

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