‘Teach ANC youth tolerance’
ANC treasurer-general says the governing party cannot celebrate junk status
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize wants the party’s youth league to be “trained in tolerance” after its recent disruption of the Durban memorial service for ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, saying they needed to understand that views that differed from their own were allowed. The former KwaZulu-Natal premier and provincial ANC chairperson also told City Press he openly criticised President Jacob Zuma’s late-night Cabinet reshuffle because “circumstances” demanded that he do so.
Mkhize was also unhappy with senior ANC and government leaders who celebrated the news of South Africa being downgraded to “junk” status and believes there is a need to “correct’’ such behaviour.
He has suggested that the two days set aside to discuss the “difficult time” facing the governing party at its policy conference in July should be used to hammer out rules for campaigning ahead of the December elective conference.
Mkhize made these comments in a wide-ranging interview with City Press this week.
He has been tipped to either stand as ANC deputy president come December or, more recently, as an alternative to both deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma for the position of party president.
Addressing the party’s veterans calls for a special consultative conference to discuss their wish for Zuma to step down, Mkhize said the July policy conference would be the forum instead.
“Two days on one subject like that should be fairly helpful. I hope that all the comrades who have issues find a way to channel their issues through it. I think it will help a lot. It was not part of the plan, but came about because the stalwarts suggested a conference,” he said.
“There were many views and we felt that those could not be discussed outside the context and the context is that the organisation is going through a difficult time,” Mkhize said.
Addressing the booing of himself and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan at the Kathrada memorial, Mkhize said it was “nothing personal” and was a spin-off of the current “contestation of views”.
“It remains ill discipline. It raises the need for young people to be trained in tolerance,” he said.
“There are certain conducts that cannot be considered a fitting tribute to a stalwart such as Ahmed Kathrada. I am of the opinion that young people need to be constantly and consistently engaged with so that they know the right way and the wrong way of behaving,” he said.
In response to questions as to why he spoke out on the reshuffle, Mkhize said there were “certain circumstances around the matter”.
“Suffice to say that we have had an opportunity to deal with and thrash out those issues internally ... Together we have worked out a way that the organisation must move [forward] now,” he said.
“Let’s put it this way – we are dealing with particular circumstances that made us take up that particular debate and we have found a way of dealing with it,” the former close ally of Zuma said. Mkhize said the party’s national working committee had issued a statement that all leaders had to take the downgrades seriously and work together in support of Treasury. “We will continue to correct those who might be downplaying the nature of the challenge,” he said.
Mkhize said the ANC was facing many challenges, some of them due to objective factors such as the poor performance of the economy, which meant that “the party takes the heat”. There were also internal weaknesses within the party that needed to be “straightened [out] and resolved”.
Turning to the ANC succession battle, Mkhize declined to say whether or not he would stand for a new term. “Well, I’m still in the organisation, so I will have to wait and hear what the nominations are indicating and we will respond then. The approaches will come when the process opens. At that point everything should be public, as people will be open about who they will be nominating,” he said.
Mkhize said the party needed to ensure that it “corrected” organisational problems.
“There are leadership contests, but we need to remember that there was an ANC during, before and after the contest and that the ANC must survive, not personal interests.”
Mkhize has been meeting with ANC branches in KwaZuluNatal to hear their grievances and says the problems there – gatekeeping, manipulation of branches and manipulation of processes – had to be dealt with ahead of conference. “We do not want any lingering doubts about the processes. This is a problem we have to deal with throughout the whole country.
“We have spoken about people who utilise leadership positions to manipulate the structures so that they can get the preferred individuals into positions, the use of patronage. The ANC going into this conference must make the most important corrections to be affected so that, going forward, we do not alienate the membership of the organisation.”
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