Calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down did not feature at the meeting between the ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) and a group of the party’s veterans. This is according to stalwart Mongane Wally Serote of the so-called “veterans’ initiative”, who says the collective has never called for Zuma to step down.
“We’ve never done that. As a group of veterans we’ve never called for the president to resign,” Serote said.
The group of veterans including Reverend Frank Chikane, Dennis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni met with the ANC’s National Working Committee NWC in Pretoria on Monday to air their concerns about the organisation. They represent a group of more than 100 stalwarts who have questioned the direction of the ANC, with some even calling on Zuma to step down. According to Serote, those who have called on the president to resign do not represent the collective.
“If they utter them [calls for a resignation], they do so in their personal capacities,” he said.
Their public criticisms of the ANC have been met with resistance by some within the party, including uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans leader Kebby Maphatsoe, who was slammed for questioning the struggle credentials of the veterans.
Zuma also lambasted the stalwarts at a rally in Pietermaritzburg on Friday, saying many of them unduly expressed criticism of the ANC despite not belonging to any party structures. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says these public spats were not discussed at the meeting, as its focus was on strengthening the ANC.
“We were not discussing utterances of whomsoever. We were discussing how best can the veterans help and contribute in making the ANC an even better organisation,” he said.
While neither of the parties would speak on the exact issues raised during the meeting, both groups say frank discussions were held.
“We are quite happy with the meeting. [It was] candid, open … difficult sometimes, but quite important for the health of the ANC moving forward,” Mantashe said.
“We had very robust discussions. There were difficult moments … we will address them. There were also many issues that we agreed upon,” Serote added.
The veterans have maintained their call for a consultative conference ahead of the ANC’s 2017 elective conference and say the matter is still being discussed. Another meeting is expected to be held with the stalwarts, before the ANC’s shutdown period over December, to thoroughly address the issues raised.