Mantashe hits back at critics in the ANC
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has hit back at his critics within the party, saying there is an attempt to drive a wedge between him and President Jacob Zuma.
This is after some of the Zuma supporters, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity, criticised Mantashe for his handling of Nkandlagate and the Waterkloof scandal, which involved the illegal landing of a private jet by the wealthy Gupta family. Some of the Zuma supporters blamed Mantashe for announcing that he would take journalists on a tour of Nkandla without without Zuma’s knowledge. Previously, they took issue with his public criticism of the illegal landing by the Gupta family at the Waterkloof military base.
Speaking publicly for the first time against his critics within the ANC, Mantashe said nothing would stop him from speaking on behalf of the party.
"I am the secretary general of the ANC.
I communicate on behalf of the party. I do that competently. Nothing will deter me from speaking on ANC issues," said Mantashe.
His relationship with Zuma and his supporters is said to have deteriorated over a period of time, according to ANC insiders.
Though he was returned to his position at the ANC's Mangaung congress, ANC sources say this decision was a compromise to retain the Eastern Cape support, but that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was initially the first choice for the secretary general position. A pro-Zuma national executive committee member attributes Mantashe's poor relationship with Zuma to that threat of unseating him in Mangaung.
"Gwede must have been tipped off on those discussions," he said.
"Problems with Gwede started about six months before Mangaung because he was not being clear about whose side he is on. He played both sides."
In the lead-up to the 2012 congress two factions – one that wanted Zuma retained as president and the one that preferred he be replaced with his then deputy Kgalema Motlanthe – both claimed Mantashe as part of their slates.
An ANC NEC member from the Eastern Cape said: "It's coming to a head now [the tension between Mantashe and Zuma]".
The member said Mantashe, who has been in the Eastern Cape on several occasions over the past few weeks, has been telling ANC branches that the province must reclaim its rightful place in the ANC and unseat KwaZulu-Natal through membership figures.
Currently, KwaZulu-Natal is the ANC biggest province, but Mantashe is understood to be building support in the Eastern Cape to use during horse-trading when he looks to a bigger position in the ANC. Mantashe is understood to habour ambitions for higher office in the ANC. However, Zuma supporters prefer his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to replace him as ANC president.
Mantashe, who is serving his second term as ANC secretary general, believe some of the criticism against him were unjustified.
“There has been an attempt to drive a wedge between me and president Zuma. I am not expecting it to stop. [But the fact of the matter is that] if there are issues that need to be raised, I tell him [Zuma]. You will fall flat on that one. If there are issues [in the ANC], we raise them. When people attack us on facts, I don't have sleepless nights. But when they do so without facts, its a miscarriage of justice,” said Mantashe.
He described those who take issues to journalists, once they have lost in ANC structures as cowards.
"They see you [the media] as a parallel platform. Asked if he spoke to Zuma about taking journalists to Nkandla, Mantashe said: "I don't talk to Zuma, I talk to the officials of the ANC and the national working committee."
He rejected claims that he told structures in the Eastern Cape to reclaim their rightful place and deal with Zuma.
"I am convinced you don't know me. I am not a tribalist or a regionalist. As we speak, I am in Mpumalanga for an ANC event. Anybody who wants to make me an Eastern Cape person is sick.
"I have been in Gauteng since 1988. I came here when I was 19 years old," said Mantashe. – Additional reporting Mmanaledi Mataboge and Andisiwe Makinana