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The Gaut­eng ANC lead­er­ship didn’t go to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s mas­sive 75th birthday party be­cause they did not re­gard it as an ANC event, but rather as a fac­tional gath­er­ing. lead­ers told City Press anony­mously that the pro­vin­cial struc­ture, led by Paul Mashatile, did not even bother mo­bil­is­ing mem­bers on the ground for the event, as per a re­quest by ANC deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jessie Duarte last week.

The sen­ti­ment was that it was not an ANC event, but was meant to be at­tended by “Zuma’s peo­ple”.

“Truth be told, this is not an ANC event, but it’s his birthday at­tended by his peo­ple,” said an ANC in­sider.

City Press has learnt that the pro­vin­cial ANC lead­er­ship in fact only re­ceived a for­mal let­ter in­form­ing them of Zuma’s party last Wednes­day. This was a day af­ter they ques­tioned Luthuli House about how an ANC let­ter­head could be used to pro­mote an event that they, as pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship, knew noth­ing about.

“The lead­er­ship was very sur­prised, but head of­fice cor­rected it the fol­low­ing day. There were con­cerns that the pro­vin­cial struc­ture would in­stead mo­bilise against Zuma’s birthday party,” said the ANC in­sider.

Duarte sent a let­ter, dated April 7, which has been seen by City Press, ask­ing the prov­ince to pro­vide de­tails of the num­ber of guests in­vited to the party, which was hosted at the Wal­ter Sisulu Square in Klip­town, Soweto, on Wednes­day. The venue can only ac­com­mo­date 10 000 guests. “Please note that pre­re­corded birthday mes­sages from the prov­inces, leagues and al­liance part­ners must be sub­mit­ted by Mon­day, April 10,” read the let­ter, which was signed by Duarte – the only mem­ber of the ANC top six who at­tended the event.

Gaut­eng sat back and did not lift a fin­ger, in­sid­ers said. They did not even bother to mo­bilise.

“They first heard of the event hap­pen­ing in their back yard through so­cial me­dia. But it didn’t mat­ter whether they re­ceived the in­vite or not, they were not go­ing to waste their time and go there,” said another ANC in­sider.

Wa­ter Af­fairs and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane, who is also the head of the ANC or­gan­is­ing and cam­paign com­mit­tee, an­nounced the plans for Zuma’s birthday party dur­ing an ANC Youth League rally last Tues­day, in which she fiercely de­fended Zuma dur­ing a live broad­cast – she said the pres­i­dent was not go­ing any­where and would serve un­til the end of his term in 2019.

Zuma used his spe­cial day to crit­i­cise his de­trac­tors within and out­side the ANC-led al­liance amid grow­ing pres­sure for him to step down.

The calls have grown louder since his Cab­i­net reshuf­fle a few weeks ago, which set the mar­kets into a tail spin and ended in the coun­try be­ing down­graded to “junk” sta­tus by rat­ings agen­cies. ANC Gaut­eng spokesper­son Sam Modiba said there was noth­ing un­to­ward about the ab­sence of pro­vin­cial lead­ers. “This was a so­cial event and there­fore at­ten­dance was not com­pul­sory. It was left to mem­bers to de­cide whether to at­tend or not. The event or­gan­is­ers were responsible for mo­bil­i­sa­tion and co­or­di­na­tion of the event,” he said. It ap­pears the re­gions took on the task of mo­bil­is­ing branches. Dada Morero, ANC sec­re­tary in Jo­han­nes­burg, said they in­formed branch lead­ers so they could pass on the mes­sage to mem­bers soon af­ter re­ceiv­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tion from Duarte about the birthday cel­e­bra­tion. “It is not like it is a po­lit­i­cal event, but it is just a birthday – so that de­ter­mined the at­ten­dance. But it is an of­fi­cial event in the ANC, so there were no is­sues raised at branch level. I think that if it was of­fi­cial, it would have been some­thing else,” Morero said. An ANC branch mem­ber from Ward 11 in Se­naoane in Soweto com­plained that his branch sec­re­tary had said mem­bers should ar­rive at 11am for the event, but did not pitch him­self. Other se­nior lead­ers who did not at­tend Zuma’s party, which re­port­edly cost R8 mil­lion, in­cluded mem­bers of the SA Com­mu­nist Party and Cosatu. How­ever, seem­ingly obliv­i­ous to his fed­er­a­tion’s po­si­tion call­ing for Zuma’s head, Cosatu pres­i­dent Sdumo Dlamini at­tended and told Zuma to re­main strong in the face of the on­slaught against him.

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Paul Mashatile

Sdumo Dlamini

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