Sexwale suffers humiliation

2012-06-27 00:00

IT WAS a case of crash and burn yesterday for Human Settlements Minister and presidential hopeful Tokyo Sexwale, who was left red-faced on the first day of the ANC’s national policy conference.

At the opening session, Sexwale intervened in a discussion on conference rules led by party chairperson Baleka Mbete.

This followed President Jacob Zuma’s opening address, in which he emphasised party unity. When he took to the podium to raise the issue of singing of songs, Sexwale deferentially said: “I feel small speaking after the president.”

However, he then went on to point out that songs about specific leaders were prohibited, yet delegates continued to sing about Zuma.

“We like singing and it is true that we are not supposed to sing derogatory songs, but comrade chair I don’t know what to say about songs in my favour,” he said.

He was put firmly in his place by a delegate from a surprising quarter — Limpopo — which is believed to be in the “Anyone but Zuma” (ABZ) faction. The delegate pointed out that Sexwale was in the National Executive Committee which ratified the rules, so he should have made the correction there.

Amid loud laughter and cheers for the Limpopo delegate, a subdued Sexwale took his seat.

Sexwale’s “humiliation” was the talking point over lunch.

Some delegates dismissed him as a buffoon, while his supporters felt he was correct to introduce the issue given that only songs were being sung about Zuma.

The ABZ faction believes this gives the president an unfair advantage.

A Sexwale sympathiser said he was trying to point out the double standards in the application of the rules.

“You can’t violate conference rules in front of your own eyes. If you don’t speak out now, we might as well go back to the death cells.”

It is understood the ruling will be discussed at a post-conference NEC meeting.

Sexwale’s detractors, however, claimed he was trying to be a “big man”. Referring to the reality show Sexwale once starred in, another delegate said: “This is not The Apprentice. This is not a reality TV show. Tokyo is out of touch with reality.”

The incident can be seen as a barometer for Sexwale’s support at the conference.

If the reaction of delegates is anything to go by, he will have an uphill battle to secure the presidency.

Analyst Professor Sakhela Buhlungu from the University of Pretoria said that while the ANC might want to deny it, songs were an important part of campaigning in the party.

Buhungu and others described the conference as stage-managed or carefully orchestrated to ensure that the succession battle did not surface.

They said it was clear that discipline was sewn up and there were strategies in place to bring anyone raising the leadership issue to order.

Talk among delegates is that KZN has worked on strategies to ensure that the policy conference remained about policy and that no one would rain on that parade.

Delegates in different sessions have been primed to raise points of order if anyone is found to be straying from that direction.

During a press briefing yesterday, Zuma was asked why a song could be sung in his name and not in the names of other ANC leaders.

He said it was because he was the party leader and the face of the ANC.

“I joined the ANC when Luthuli was president. We sang about him when he was there,” he said.

“When Tambo became president, we sang about Tambo. We sang many songs about the president.”

Zuma said the ANC also sang songs about former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

“When you sing about leaders, you are not campaigning.”

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