ANC head of mobilisation and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane has strongly criticised ANC Gauteng's intended decision to use former president Thabo Mbeki to campaign among the middle class, saying: "There should never have been an attempt at this kind of reflection and this matter should not have arisen at all."
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Monday, Mokonyane said Zuma was the face of the ANC election campaign for all strata of society. Her comment went against the ANC in Gauteng 's statement that Zuma would address the masses at informal settlement and townships, while Mbeki and other political figures such as Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa would focus on the more sophisticated sectors of society.
This matter has opened the first schism in the ANC's election campaign, which is quite unusual for a party that always closes ranks during the election periods.
The Sunday Times reported that Gauteng ANC secretary David Makhura said the party had already asked Mbeki to be part of the campaign to win over the middle class. "The president is leading our direct contact with the people. He is not going to be in those house meetings in the suburbs. We are using him for big community meetings and door-to-door work. We are taking him to the people in our communities in townships and informal settlements … areas that are our traditional strongholds," Makhura was quoted as saying.
At the party's national conference in Mangaung last year, the ANC in Gauteng had preferred Motlanthe to lead the party as opposed to Zuma, but had lost the vote. Their statements could fuel speculation that they have not fully accepted Zuma's leadership.
But Mokonyane said there was only one national election strategy, which needed to be implemented by all provinces.
'Zuma is the face'
"Although the provinces can adopt the strategy for their material conditions, this does not mean provinces can decide how and when we utilise ANC resources and leaders. President Zuma is the face of the campaign and not the face of the campaign for a particular stratum of society. He is the face when we meet the academia, people in informal settlements, business and everyone. The black middle class is a creation of the ANC policy and it is the leader of the ANC who must address them," said the Gauteng premier.
Mokonyane was adamant the party in Gauteng should print ANC T-shirts with Zuma's face, distribute them and wear them. Zuma was in Katlehong in the East Rand in Gauteng on Sunday campaigning for the party.
When asked if there was still a role for former president Mbeki, Mokonyane said it was wrong to single out an individual. She said the ANC had many other former leaders. "We must resist doing things that create the perception that we are not embracing current leaders," she said.
Gauteng ANC spokesperson Nkenke Kekana told the M&G that the province would deploy leaders for the election in consultation with national leaders.
He said Gauteng fully embraced Zuma. "The president of the ANC is the face of the election and there is no confusion about that. If someone out there has doubts, it is their own doubts. We have never said anything different. In fact I doubt that we have time for debates of this nature. We are in full election mode now".