Mantashe disses election backlash

Praise singers: ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says President Jacob Zuma’s face won’t be used on posters for the local government elections in August. (Troy Enekvist, M&G)

Praise singers: ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says President Jacob Zuma’s face won’t be used on posters for the local government elections in August. (Troy Enekvist, M&G)

The travails of President Jacob Zuma will have no impact on local government elections — and his face won’t feature in the ANC’s campaigning, according to the party’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian from Zimbabwe on Wednesday night, Mantashe said he was not having any sleepless nights worrying about the impact of the court judgments concerning Zuma on the ANC’s election campaign.

“They [voters] want to know what is the ANC doing in my locality – who are the candidates to become councillors? The local government is the only campaign where we don’t have the face of the president on posters. We will have individual candidates on posters,” Mantashe said.

He said voters were more concerned about what was happening in their communities than about Zuma. He again ruled out the party recalling Zuma from office, despite the two judgments concerning him, saying this would risk causing chaos in the country.

Again he lambasted ANC veterans and the children of exiles who have publicly called on the ANC president to step down.
Mantashe had previously criticised anti-Zuma ANC members following the damning Constitutional Court judgment about the president and his Nkandla homestead. 

Zuma’s integrity as a leader also suffered a major blow when the high court in Pretoria last Friday set aside the decision to withdraw 783 criminal charges against him, saying it was irrational.

“There is no way the ANC can say recall President Zuma. It will take a long process [for that to happen]. We can’t tear ourselves apart. People will not agree [to Zuma’s recall]. 

“Its impact will be bigger than someone losing the election [to contest for the president position]. It will cause chaos in the country,” said Mantashe.

So far, the party has held meetings with 47 of its 53 regions, he said, but he wouldn’t reveal what was resolved or discussed at those meetings.

He dismissed the call by the first deputy general secretary of the South African Communist Party, Jeremy Cronin, who reportedly said charges against Zuma should be reinstated so that he can clear his name in court.

“It’s not for Jeremy to say that. I don’t agree that he [Zuma] should go to court [because] there is no charge against him. You can’t wish the president to go to court when there are no charges against him. The NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] has not said anything about this,” Mantashe said.

The SACP has since issued a statement saying Cronin was misinterpreted.

The ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, issued a statement last Friday after the high court ruling saying the party was pleased the matter was closer to resolution – seven years after the NPA’s decision. 

This was interpreted by some to mean that the party would prefer Zuma to clear his name in court without further delay.

But Kodwa this week said the statement did not mean Zuma should go to court to clear his name. The party was merely saying the matter had been dragging on for a long time without any resolution. “We were talking about history,” he said.

Asked why Zuma had not appeared before the party’s integrity commission like any other ANC members who brought the party into disrepute, Mantashe said it was not up to the ANC leadership to dictate to the commission who to call or not to call to appear before it.

Asked if he and other leaders were not taking action against Zuma because they feared him, Mantashe responded: “What is scary about him? He is a very pleasant human being.”

The deputy chairperson of the integrity commission, Frene Ginwala, this week told the Sowetan newspaper the commission needed to be careful when dealing with matters relating to senior ANC leaders because there would be a tremendous backlash if they made a mistake.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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