ANC warns stalwarts against antagonising voters
If the ANC loses the 2019 elections, the blame could partly be laid squarely at the feet of its elders, who have been publicly critical about the leadership crisis in the governing party.
City Press has reliably learnt that this was among the warning shots fired by some members of the party’s top six at a four-hour national working committee meeting with party stalwarts this week, before a concession by President Jacob Zuma that their call for a consultative conference was legitimate.
Yesterday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe announced that the national working committee resolved that the party’s policy conference in June would be split into two, with the first days dedicated to the consultative conference.
City Press understands that the veterans went to Friday’s meeting with a proposal to convert the January 8 celebrations into a special consultative conference owing to the urgency of issues.
Insiders have painted a picture of the first meeting of the two parties as being frank and robust, with Mantashe and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, admonishing the stalwarts for “behaving like they were not part of the ANC”.
They were among those in the meeting who expressed disappointment with the veterans’ decision to hang the ANC’s dirty linen out in public.
“They said that the Gauteng leadership behaved like they were not part of the ANC; they do their own thing and refuse to involve national leaders in anything that they do.
“They then blamed the Gauteng structure for the poor election results in the province, where the ANC lost two key metros, including Johannesburg and Tshwane,” said an insider.
“They said if the ANC leadership lost in 2019, it might be because veterans were behaving like Gauteng did.”
But yesterday, Mantashe said it would be wrong to blame the veterans for a negative electoral performance.
“There is no such thing. We are engaging with them and we want to get them involved in the work of the ANC.
“The discussion with the veterans cannot drive voters away. The only thing that will drive away voters is when you keep the veterans on the periphery and then they cry loud. When you invite the veterans into the centre of the movement, that cannot drive away the voters,” Mantashe said.
Other staunch Zuma supporters who came combat-ready – such as Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, ANC Youth League president Collen Maine and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini – pulled no punches at the meeting as they lectured the elders on their “questionable conduct” of publicly raising internal matters of the ANC.
Zuma is said to have surprised many – even those who were baying for the veterans’ blood – with his reconciliatory approach to the discussions.
He told the veterans that he agreed with their analysis about the crises in the ANC as presented and contained in their letter addressed to him, but had asked that a way forward be found. He also asked the meeting that the request for the special consultative conference be considered.
Those who spoke on behalf of the veterans included Professor Stan Sangweni, Siphiwe Nyanda, Albertina Sisulu and Rashaka Ratshitanga, who mentioned the need to unify the already divided ANC and to root out corruption and resolve the leadership crisis.
However, Zuma is said to have angered the veterans when he used the opportunity to make a mockery of the Nkandla scandal, saying the veterans were too quick to talk about issues they didn’t understand.
He said people didn’t understand and just wanted to talk, raising issues out of ignorance.
Zuma also laughed off a Public Protector finding that he “indirectly benefited” from the Nkandla renovations, saying the term was invented because people could not prove any wrongdoing . He asked: “How do you benefit indirectly?” He also complained that, despite paying up for the undue benefits, people were still making a fuss and pretending that Nkandla was still an issue.