Mantashe: ANC succession reminds me of apartheid’s dirty tricks

"It is populism that is actually opportunistic to gain votes quick quick.” (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

"It is populism that is actually opportunistic to gain votes quick quick.” (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Outgoing ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said there were “dirty tricks” coming into the party’s national elective conference, making a comparison with the dirty tricks used by apartheid security forces to ensure assassinated prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd was not succeeded by his deputy Ben Schoeman. Mantashe delivered his last organisational report to the conference’s main plenary at Nasrec near Soweto on Sunday, and briefed journalists for the last time as the party’s secretary general on Monday.

He has been nominated to become the ANC’s national chairperson, and is associated with the slate backing ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to take over from president Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa is contesting against former African Union commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Counting of votes for the top six positions started on Monday afternoon and a result was expected in the evening.

He explained that after Verwoerd was stabbed in the National Assembly, Schoeman was in line to replace him permanently, but this was sabotaged by the apartheid security forces.

“The run up to this conference was particularly difficult,” Mantashe began. “Securocrats discredited him [Schoeman], dirtied him… I saw signs of these dirty tricks coming to this conference,” he said.

In a candid exchange with journalists, Mantashe weighed in on the delegates’ insistence to be allowed into the voting booth with a list of candidates’ names, which he argued was the ultimate in slate politics.

“I can’t with my conscience sit in the ANC and take a decision that branches must go to the voting booth with a list. That’s slate politics. I hope comrades will not do that. That debate is not closed, it will and should continue,” Mantashe said.

The secretary general walked up to the podium yesterday to explain to the delegates that the electoral commission was empowered by the ANC constitution to determine the rules of voting, which included prohibiting lists and requiring an identity document with the delegate tag.

But NEC member Tony Yengeni angrily followed him at the podium, and said delegates are not beholden to the rules because the conference is the highest-decision making body of the ANC.

Mantashe believes this was a desperate, populist move.

“[In conference] one of the things you can do is to be populist. That’s intended to win three or four additional votes to what you really have. It is populism that is actually opportunistic to gain votes quick quick.”

Mantashe is also head of the steering committee that oversees the entire conference and ensures the proceedings adhere to the ANC constitution. He said the branch general meeting disputes and the inflation of delegations to the national conference had proved to be one of their biggest problems.

But this was resolved when both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma supporters adopted the credentials report, and agreed on the legitimacy of the delegates present at the conference.

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