Jack­son Mthembu re­veals his plan to quit pol­i­tics

Chief whip says new lead­er­ship will need to deal with a di­vided party


ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu is con­sid­er­ing quit­ting na­tional pol­i­tics af­ter the party’s elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber.

Mthembu, a backer of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, told the Sun­day Times his sup­port was not for per­sonal gain as he planned to go back to his home in Mpumalanga to spend time with his fam­ily.

He said the failed no-con­fi­dence vote against Zuma, when about 26 ANC MPs voted with the op­po­si­tion, had cre­ated a “toxic space” in his cau­cus. The toxic en­vi­ron­ment was a re­sult of the lead­er­ship battle as well.

Mthembu said he had not spent enough time with his fam­ily for the past 23 years, which had led to a di­vorce from his first wife. He also opened up about his 32-year-old son who is in jail.

“One thing that I’m pon­der­ing is, af­ter ev­ery­thing that I’ve done and not done for my fam­ily, isn’t it time that I pri­ori­tised them? I’ve pri­ori­tised my peo­ple, my or­gan­i­sa­tion at the ex­pense of fam­ily. I once di­vorced pre­cisely be­cause I was never home,” he said.

Try to make amends

“My first-born has been hooked on nar­cotics and now is in prison. These are things that I’m pon­der­ing. If I was always there, avail­able, would he have gone this route?

“I have a wife now and two kids that are with me here [in Cape Town]. I’m pon­der­ing whether shouldn’t I take time off with my fam­ily be­fore I die and try to make amends and see whether this one who’s in prison . . . when I can get the time and space to turn things around for him. So there are all these per­sonal con­sid­er­a­tions,” he said.

Mthembu, who is also a mem­ber of the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, said he had yet to con­sult party lead­ers on re­tir­ing.

“[I’ve been] of course side­lined from any cabinet from 1999. No prob­lem, but I’ve served my peo­ple.

“I’ve not con­sulted on this, but I’m really ag­o­nis­ing about it; I don’t think I’ve been that good to my fam­ily.

“That does not mean leav­ing the move­ment, it means leav­ing a higher lead­er­ship po­si­tion. Com­rades like me can still help re­deem [the ANC, but] you can’t wish away how I feel. One is no longer that young. I will be 60 next year and there are many ca­pa­ble cadres, given a chance, who can do this thing that we are do­ing. We must not think we’re ir­re­place­able.

“What­ever one does is not in­flu­enced by per­sonal glory; there’s no per­sonal ben­e­fit that I will de­rive. In fact, these days, more than any­thing, we might also die for what we’re do­ing, any­thing is pos­si­ble . . . the era we are in is al­most like when we were fight­ing an apartheid tyran­ni­cal state.”

Mthembu, who was ap­pointed chief whip last March, ad­mit­ted that he was lead­ing a di­vided cau­cus where there was grow­ing mis­trust among ANC MPs.

He de­scribed the mood in his cau­cus as “toxic”, say­ing this was one of the is­sues that would re­quire ur­gent at­ten­tion from the new lead­er­ship to be elected in De­cem­ber.

“As we go to­wards this con­fer­ence in 2017, one thing we must be able to deal with [is] tox­i­c­ity of our po­lit­i­cal space in the ANC.”

The era we are in is al­most like when we were fight­ing an apartheid tyran­ni­cal state Jack­son Mthembu ANC chief whip

Pic­ture: Gallo Images

ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu, above, out­side his place of work, the par­lia­ment build­ing in Cape Town.

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