U.S. was told of alliance tension

2011-02-18 00:00

TENSIONS between the ANC and its alliance partners needed to be addressed with a “cool down” period or the party’s congress in 2012 would be “worse than Polokwane”, ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa told the U.S. ambassador, according to a classified diplomatic cable.

The cable, leaked to whistleblower website WikiLeaks and obtained exclusively by Media24 Investigations team, details a meeting 14 months ago between Phosa, U.S. ambassador Donald Gips and the deputy chief of the U.S. mission to South Africa, Helen la Lime, in which he reportedly expressed concern about the “ongoing tensions within the ANC and with its alliance partners”,

The meeting, held on December 17, 2009, occurred against the backdrop of bitter feuding between senior ANC and alliance members and calls from President Jacob Zuma for ANC leaders to refrain from publicly attacking one another.

Weeks earlier, ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema had launched a scathing onslaught on SA Communist Party deputy secretary-general Jeremy Cronin, describing him as a “white Messiah” who reflects the sentiments of “white supremacists”. Malema was reacting angrily to comments by Cronin that Malema and others were “thinking of bling” when they spoke about the nationalisation of the mines.

Cronin later apologised for the “silly comment”, saying he had not realised that Malema had “such a delicate skin”.

Phosa’s meeting with U.S. diplomats also took place shortly after Malema attacked him and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe over their opposition to the ANCYL’s persistent calls for nationalisation.

During the meeting, Phosa apparently “conceded that anti-communism within the ANC is growing and that conflicts have more to do with personalities than issues”.

“He cited the recent debate over nationalisation of the country’s mines as one example where the debate is about personal ambitions and not whether the policy would enhance South Africa’s economy.

“He added the feud between Julius Malema and Jeremy Cronin is not about nationalisation or ‘bad blood’ between the two.

“Rather, Phosa opined, the feud is a way for Malema to attack SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and SACP national chairperson Gwede Mantashe.”

According to the cable, Phosa told the diplomats: “They are all talking about 2012. The ANCYL thinks Mantashe is conflicted in his roles as SACP chair and ANC secretary-general.”

Phosa revealed details of a private meeting in which Malema “pointed” at Mantashe and “accused him directly of being ‘conflicted’ because he plays a role in both parties”.

He said the ANC “needed a ‘cool down’ period soon or the 2012 party congress ‘will be worse than Polokwane’,” and admitted that he too is in danger of losing his position at the congress.

He added that it is “harmful” for so many ANC members to be discussing the “leadership succession question so long before the ANC’s next leadership elections”.

Commenting on Zuma’s tenure as president, Phosa “smiled” and said: “I told you Zuma would be a good leader” and expressed a belief that Zuma would “make South Africa a better country”.

He said Zuma does not share former president Thabo Mbeki’s more “anti-Western prejudices”, adding that “Zuma’s interactions with President [Barack] Obama are very important to South Africa and the ANC”.

“Only a fool does not know the place of the United States in the world.”

Contacted yesterday, Phosa said: “I don’t want to dignify WikiLeaks. I have no comment. As a lawyer, I will not dignify documents written by a third party that I have never seen.”

Read extracts from the cable, Phosa said the author “may have just been interpreting me”.

“He’s very creative, I think.”

U.S. embassy spokesperson Elizabeth Kennedy-Trudeau said that “as a matter of policy, we will not address the contents of any stolen document”.

She added that while the U.S. has “criticised the unauthorised disclosure of U.S. government information for harming our national security, and undermining our efforts to work with other countries”, it “will not seek to censor this information”.

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