Zuma reins in ANC top brass

2012-04-03 00:00

FOR President Jacob Zuma’s allies in KwaZulu-Natal it was a case of their man having outmanoeuvred his detractors in the ANC leadership.

 

For supporters of those who want Zuma removed from power, it was proof that the special press conference called by the party’s top six leaders yesterday said more about weaknesses and divisions than unity in the ANC.

Local ANC members canvassed yesterday said ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, treasurer-general Matthews Phosa and deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise would no longer be able to flirt with youth league leader Julius Malema.

The three, who are part of the top six, are seen to be among the leaders who do not support Zuma for a second term as ANC president.

Analyst Karima Brown echoed this view, saying that if the three leaders continued in this vein it would show them up as spoilers who were trying to divide the party.

Brown said the press briefing was aimed at party members and was a bid to bind the leadership in a common approach to dealing with the troublesome ANCYL, whose leader seems destined to have his expulsion upheld.

An hour before the press briefing, Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC national disciplinary committee of appeal chairperson, announced that Malema’s appeal against his expulsion would take place on Thursday, April 12. The date also happens to be Zuma’s birthday.

Brown said that if Malema lost his appeal and decided to challenge the ANC in court, it would be very difficult for Motlanthe and Phosa to give evidence on his behalf.

She said it was Zuma’s detractors who were caught on the back foot and who ended up speaking out and disowning the youth league.

Modise had mentioned the “bastardisation” of internal party process and said: “If you don’t know how to lobby the mother body and elders, we will have to teach you.”

Motlanthe in turn said: “Those that try to use our names to divide the organisation will not succeed.”

Brown saw the press conference as an ANC signal to its members that all party leaders would have to play by certain rules and that those who violated them publicly would have to take responsibility.

UKZN political science lecturer Sanele Nene described the statement issued in Zuma’s name as a clever attempt to malign those who criticised him and the ANC as being the spoilers of the party’s centenary year and its rich traditions.

However, for other analysts there was a sense of deja vu.

Commentator Zakhele Ndlovu asked whether the country hadn’t seen it all before ahead of the the ANC’s divisive elective conference in Polokwane in 2007.

Ndlovu remembered Zuma insisting publicly that everything was fine between him and former President Thabo Mbeki.

“This time around people are sceptical. There are divisions within the party and there is no denying it,” he said.

Economist and political commentator Kwanele Gumbi agreed, saying the man in the street was becoming so used to denials from the ANC that it was no longer believable.

He questioned why the party was denying the disunity when it was so obvious, and when, in any case, tensions and divisions were normal features of a democracy.

The show of unity did not fool some journalists who were at Luthuli House yesterday.

e.tv presenter Nikiwe Bikitsha told viewers that from the body language of the leaders there appeared to be a great deal of tension in the air.

Any attempt to convince viewers that there was unity among the ANC top brass had fallen flat.

“It did not seem like a Kumbaya moment,” she said.

Zuma smiled and laughed often, which analysts believe is his way of masking his nervousness.

Phosa, on the other hand, looked like he’d rather not be in the room and his brief responses came across as cynical.

ANC secretary-General Gwede Mantashe read out the statement issued in Zuma’s name, which harshly reprimanded Malema and condemned his assertion on Friday night that Zuma was a dictator.

Malema, who shared the stage with Phosa at the time, had made what is probably his harshest attack on Zuma yet.

Yesterday Phosa was asked by journalists why he did not reprimand Malema, and replied: “To borrow from what was said earlier, I did not have the urge to respond in kind.”

He added that he had been critical of what had been said during the lecture and that his speech, which was distributed, had made it clear that “masses of our country do not appreciate it when leaders squabble in public.”

Reading the Zuma statement, Mantashe said the press conference was called to address incidents that were causing confusion within the ANC and the public at large.

He said the party was “very concerned about some alien behaviour within our movement, which has manifested itself in various ways, including some shockingly crude, disrespectful and un-ANC remarks that have been in the public domain over the past few weeks”.

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