Sunday Times

ANC sends SOS to Mbeki

Former KZN provincial secretary Ntuli deployed to convince former president to join campaign


The ANC is banking on former president Thabo Mbeki agreeing to join its election campaign ahead of the elections this year as it seeks to hold on to power.

It has deployed the party’s head of elections, former KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, to persuade Mbeki to help the ANC as it seeks re-election 30 years after taking power. Ntuli enjoys a close relationsh­ip with the former president.

The governing party is facing what many observers believe will be its toughest test, with another former president, Jacob Zuma, now campaignin­g for the new MK Party.

Mbeki this week reportedly launched a scathing attack on Zuma giving insiders hope he will not be opposed to helping President Cyril Ramaphosa win a second term.

The ANC believes Mbeki could turn things around for a party that is on the verge of losing power. He is the only party president to have won a two-thirds majority, when the ANC was re-elected in 2004.

A survey released in November by the Social Research Foundation (SRF) revealed that Mbeki was the most popular politician — beating even Ramaphosa.

The Sunday Times has learnt that ANC leaders at Luthuli House are drafting a campaign schedule for Mbeki should he agree to come on board. “He hasn’t agreed yet ... but we’re confident that he will agree to come on board,” said a senior ANC member.

“The idea is for us to have a plan for a post-manifesto launch because we want him to go out there campaignin­g with the manifesto in his hands. What we are getting from the likes of comrade Mdumiseni [Ntuli] is that he is agreeing to attend the manifesto launch, but as I said, there is nothing formal as yet,” said the national executive committee (NEC) member.

Ntuli declined to comment and referred all questions to the ANC.

Mbeki has in the past few months become a vocal critic of the ANC’s failure to deliver on its conference resolution to renew itself, giving the impression that he would not be willing to join the campaign. Last year, he told Eyewitness News he had not taken a decision whether to vote for the ANC or not.

“There are many things that are going wrong which are not being attended to. I can’t go to the ordinary people of our country and say ‘vote for these people who are doing wrong things’. I can’t do that,” he said.

He also told a gathering at Unisa last year that he couldn’t campaign for a party that harbours criminals. “When you say I must go campaign next year [and] tell people to vote ANC, how am I going to do that when I know very well the branch of the ANC in this constituen­cy

is led by a criminal? You can’t. It is not possible to go and say people must vote for a criminal.”

However, his attendance of the NEC lekgotla suggests that Mbeki could be amenable to campaign for the party.

ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula this week told the Sunday Times Mbeki had never said he would not campaign for the ANC. He had raised “political views” and “asked strategic questions” about selling the

ANC to South Africans.

“That’s what Thabo Mbeki asked and people jumped to the conclusion that he will not campaign. Thabo Mbeki has never decampaign­ed the ANC, he has never said people must not vote for the ANC. Zuma has done that and there is no comparison.

“Thabo Mbeki has raised strategic issues that he thought the ANC must respond to as a party so as to enable it to have a smoother engagement with the voters. That’s what he actually did.”

The strategic issues Mbalula said Mbeki had raised have made him one of the biggest critics of the Ramaphosa-led ANC, saying it had failed to act on most of its policy decisions and conference resolution­s.

Mbeki recently told an ANC gathering in Johannesbu­rg the ANC had done absolutely nothing towards its much talked about renewal programme, and that it is infiltrate­d by criminals who were supposed to have been rooted out.

He has also accused the government of failing to implement the social compact, which was meant to drive economic growth, and complained about load-shedding and a lack of work opportunit­ies.

He criticised the ANC for protecting Ramaphosa at all costs when it instructed its MPs to vote against the motion to establish an inquiry into the Phala Phala scandal.

Given all of this, Mbeki said young South Africans should ask the ANC why it deserves their votes this year.

This criticism, coupled with Zuma’s recent action, led the ANC to send Ntuli to try to convince Mbeki to come into the fold.

“You must remember that the first time he went out to campaign was when comrade Mdumiseni was the provincial secretary ... Which was the first time after 10 years that he had engaged in ANC programmes, and following that he then went to other provinces after they saw that he was in KZN,” an NEC insider said.

“This was because of the relationsh­ip he has with comrade Mdu and it ... is highly possible Mdu will be able to convince him.”

Senior leaders in the NEC told the Sunday Times that Mbeki’s participat­ion in its elections committee at the lekgotla this week was a sign that he was considerin­g becoming part of the party’s campaign machinery.

“He’s definitely going to campaign. He told us what we have to say during the campaign in order to win the elections, and for me that shows someone who has an interest in the ANC election campaign,” an NEC member said.

Mbeki is said to have been critical of Zuma at a breakaway commission at the lekgotla, saying the years when Zuma led SA were counterrev­olutionary as there was a deliberate move to weaken the state.

“He was saying that there was counterrev­olution that produced failure and disaster in the ANC and that president Zuma was directly involved in capturing and taking over Sars [tax agency] and subsequent­ly Eskom. He said that Zuma and Tom Moyane aggressive­ly did so and that this has immensely contribute­d in the bad narrative the ANC and its government suffer today.”

Mbeki is said to have attributed the decline of the ANC’s electoral fortunes to Zuma as polls and reports show the party has lost support during his tenure, sources said.

Mbalula said Mbeki’s participat­ion in the lekgotla was not surprising as he had “always been available. He’s responded to our invites, he’s never been disinvited and he has been open with us ... about his views. So let us debunk the myth and the distortion around the former president. He has always been a part of us,” said Mbalula.

Thabo Mbeki Foundation spokesman Siyabulela Gebe declined to comment.

 ?? ?? Former president Thabo Mbeki
Former president Thabo Mbeki
 ?? ?? Mdumiseni Ntuli
Mdumiseni Ntuli
 ?? ?? Fikile Mbalula
Fikile Mbalula

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