Gag order: Only Zuma can speak at Mangaung

As President Jacob Zuma prepares to deliver one of his most important speeches at the ANC centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein on Sunday, a battle is brewing over who else should speak at the event.

The ANC Youth League, the Veterans’ League and union federation Cosatu have questioned the party’s decision to exclude its alliance partners and the leagues from speaking at the rally.

ANC sources believe that the decision not to allow alliance structures to speak is designed to prevent Malema from making comments at the event that might embarrass Zuma.

Alliance leaders told the Mail & Guardian this week they had not been informed about the decision to prevent them from delivering their messages of support, as has been the tradition in the past.

But the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Women’s League say there is nothing untoward in the president addressing the crowd alone, as this is a different event from the usual January 8 anniversary statement.

At least 100 ?000 people are expected to listen to Zuma’s keynote speech.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Zuma was likely to reflect the difficulties that the party faced in trying to liberate the people of South Africa and what it needed to do to remain the political party of choice for the next 100 years.

Reflection
“He is likely to reflect on the pains, the frustrations that our movement faced under colonialism and apartheid. He will also look at the high points and milestones over the past years, [and] reflect on the founding values of the ANC,” said Mthembu.
He said Zuma was also likely to speak about issues of job creation, skills development and the eradication of poverty.

“You cannot have an unequal society based on race for ever. We can’t continue to have high levels of unemployment based on race. Our people are unemployable because of race. All this is because of the legacies of not having political power for many years, the legacy of economic exclusion.

It is about time that black people are given the opportunity to participate in the mainstream economy. We cannot continue to be owners of spaza shops,” said Mthembu.

Speaking to the M&G this week, youth league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa insisted that league president Julius Malema would speak at the rally, adding that the league was not aware of any decision to prevent other party structures from speaking.

“President Julius Malema will speak on that day. Nothing will stop him from addressing the rally. We don’t know of any decision to prevent our president [from speaking]. It’s the tradition of the ANC that we deliver the messages of support. The January 8 statement won’t be complete without the youth league speaking,” said Magaqa.

‘I’m hearing this for the first time’
Fanele Mbali, the ANC veteran’s league treasurer general, said he was shocked to hear through the media that alliance structures and the leagues will not be addressing ANC supporters at the rally.

“I’m hearing this for the first time. The ANC has always been my organisation. I am surprised to hear from the Mail & Guardian before my organisation has informed me. All members of the Veteran’s League would be equally surprised to hear this from the media.

“All structures of the ANC would cherish the opportunity to speak at the centenary not only to ANC members but to society at large. It is surprising that it is the ANC that does not want leaders of its structures to speak on this important occasion,” said Mbali.

Cosatu’s spokesperson Patrick Craven said that discussions were continuing about whether to allow structures of the broader movement to address the crowd.

“We hope a space would be found so that we can be given an opportunity to speak at the rally,” he said.

Cosatu’s deputy president Bheki Ntshalintshali said he did not know the reasons behind the ANC’s decision to prevent the federation from addressing the rally.

‘There has to be a good reason’
“I don’t want to speculate but we normally speak,” said Ntshalintshali.

“It is strange that we won’t be speaking this time. There has to be a good reason for that.”

Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, who is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against suspension from the party, said: “It is unfortunate that people are breaking away from the tradition of the ANC by not allowing leaders of the youth league and other alliance structures an opportunity to speak at the
centenary celebration.”

The M&G reported two weeks ago that ANC appeals committee chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa had rejected pressure to finalise the appeals processes involving youth league leaders—including Malema—by the end of 2011. Malema’s supporters viewed this as a ploy to ensure that he will not share the stage with Zuma at Mangaung.

An ANC national executive committee member told the M&G: “They are refusing everybody [a chance] to speak because they want to deal with Malema. The ANC is what it is because of the alliance. You can’t have a celebration where the alliance leaders do not speak. This is happening today because the alliance is led by factionalists.”

A provincial youth league leader said: “They are afraid Malema and Cosatu might contradict Zuma in front of thousands of VIP guests. It is nothing but an attempt to sideline the alliance and suppress its views.”

‘Nothing untoward’
The ANC Women’s League and the South African Communist Party said there was nothing untoward about only Zuma speaking at the rally.

“Let the president speak. It’s much more orderly. We’re happy with the decision,” said women’s league president Angie Motshekga.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza defended the ANC’s decision to bar alliance structures and the leagues from speaking at the historic occasion, saying this was because the programme was brief.

“Normally we start at 10am and the president would speak from 12pm. But this time he will start speaking much later than that. This is not a normal January 8 statement. The nature of the event is such that only the president can speak ... This is not a youth league event. It’s the ANC event, said Khoza.

“The leagues are not stand-alone organisations. They fall under the ANC. We’ve informed all the leagues and alliance partners that they would not speak. Their messages would be contained in an ANC booklet that would be distributed at the event.”

Follow the Mail & Guardian‘s coverage of the ANC’s 100th anniversary.

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ML

Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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    • Charles Molele

      Charles Molele

      Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012).
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