President Jacob Zuma has been reined in by the ANC’s top brass following his endorsement of Andile Lungisa as ANC Nelson Mandela Bay chairperson.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday the ANC’s top six officials took a decision in a meeting this week that Lungisa, who also serves as a provincial executive committee member, should be removed as the new regional chairperson because he was not eligible to contest a position in a lower structure, in line with the party’s constitution.
Despite instructions from Mantashe not to compete for the position of regional chairperson, Lungisa accepted nomination at the eleventh hour after he reportedly received a call from Zuma to contest.
Zuma flew to Port Elizabeth last Sunday, hours after Lungisa’s election, to tell him that the ancestors agreed with his election. Addressing delegates at the regional conference, the ANC president praised Lungisa and said he was a man of character.
“The ANC is saying it is something that we are looking for, it’s not just that the person is now grey and balding that we recognise someone as a leader. We look at the quality, the energy, the consistency; in other words we choose the leader because we can explain why,” said Zuma.
Lungisa, the former deputy president of the ANC Youth League, is one of the key lobbyists in the Eastern Cape to have former African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected the next ANC leader in December. She landed in Johannesburg from Addis Ababa on Wednesday, after having completed her term.
A number of ANC leaders, including Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, were unhappy with Zuma’s endorsement of Lungisa, saying this was sending the wrong message to the public because Lungisa was not eligible to contest the regional position. ANC insiders said party officials forced Zuma to change his position, berating him during the meeting for publicly endorsing Lungisa.
ANC Eastern Cape secretary general Oscar Mabuyane confirmed that Lungisa’s election as chair had been nullified after an instruction from Luthuli House.
“The instruction is that comrade Andile must vacate the office as chairperson of the region. It further states that the region, at an appropriate time through a properly constituted regional general council, must elect a new chairperson. The deputy chairperson [Phumzile Tshuni] must act in his position,” Mabuyane said.
He said the decision had already been communicated to Lungisa and the rest of the regional executive committee and no objections had been received. As far as they were concerned, Lungisa was no longer in charge of the ANC in the region.
“It is a decision of the NEC [national executive committee]. There is no ANC member that will go against that,” Mabuyane added.
Lungisa’s election also featured at a bilateral meeting between the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) and the South African Communist Party’s (SACP) politburo, the first since Zuma took over the ANC presidency in 2007.
Nzimande berated Zuma’s endorsement of Lungisa and was scathing in his criticism of the ANC leadership and Zuma’s role in entrenching divisions in the alliance.
The issues raised by the SACP delegation of 18 members included the abuse of internal organisational processes, factionalism and ill-discipline. But Nzimande also used the meeting to lament the “impunity” shown by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini in her handling of the South African Social Services Agency crisis. This formed part of a presentation during which the SACP reiterated its concerns about state capture by the Gupta family, the ANC’s public credibility and internal calls for the party to contest the election on its own.
SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila confirmed that his party raised concerns with the ANC. Mapaila said the perceived endorsement of Lungisa by Zuma exposed the ANC and damaged its credibility.
“There should be no unnecessary condonation of wrongdoing by any leaders of the movement. The leaders shouldn’t justify wrong things because they favour them or not. We should affirm policies of the organisation and develop a competent cadre of the movement that can respect the policies.”
Mapaila said the SACP has also asked the ANC to revoke the Gupta family’s South African citizenship.
“We did indicate that the perceived relationship between Guptas and the president continues to create problems and that needs to be managed. We told the ANC that the best way to deal with them perhaps is to revoke their membership as citizens of the country,” Mapaila told the M&G.
The SACP also demanded the removal of Dlamini, saying she should be held accountable for her actions, or the ANC would risk losing even more support.
“We have called for action to be taken, including for the minister to own up. If you can’t take action on a matter of this magnitude that makes the whole country doubt the movement we won’t be taken seriously,” Mapaila said, warning that discussions on whether the SACP should contest the elections on its own were continuing within the party, and that complicity in corruption would not be tolerated.
“We said we don’t want to be party to a movement that is plagued by scandals week in and week out,” Mapaila said.
ANC NWC member and Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu came to Zuma’s defence, saying those unhappy with his conduct should raise their concerns in proper ANC structures.
“Frankly, shouting from different rooftops will not be a good thing for the organisation. The good thing about the organisation is that it has the constitution, practices and the leadership that need to lead. The relevant structure of the ANC must deal with it. Those unhappy know the procedure,” said Zulu.
She said she disagreed with those who argued that Zuma’s visit to the Nelson Mandela Bay regional conference created an impression that he endorsed incorrect procedures.