Factional: That's why Gauteng snubbed Zuma's birthday bash

2017-04-16 06:01
Paul Mashatile

Paul Mashatile

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The Gauteng ANC leadership didn’t go to President Jacob Zuma’s massive 75th birthday party because they did not regard it as an ANC event, but rather as a factional gathering.

ANC leaders told City Press anonymously that the provincial structure, led by Paul Mashatile, did not even bother mobilising members on the ground for the event, as per a request by ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte last week.

The sentiment was that it was not an ANC event, but was meant to be attended by “Zuma’s people”.

“Truth be told, this is not an ANC event, but it’s his birthday attended by his people,” said an ANC insider.

City Press has learnt that the provincial ANC leadership in fact only received a formal letter informing them of Zuma’s party last Wednesday.

This was a day after they questioned Luthuli House about how an ANC letterhead could be used to promote an event that they, as provincial leadership, knew nothing about.

“The leadership was very surprised, but head office corrected it the following day. There were concerns that the provincial structure would instead mobilise against Zuma’s birthday party,” said the ANC insider.

Duarte sent a letter, dated April 7, which has been seen by City Press, asking the province to provide details of the number of guests invited to the party, which was hosted at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Soweto, on Wednesday.

The venue can only accommodate 10 000 guests.

“Please note that prerecorded birthday messages from the provinces, leagues and alliance partners must be submitted by Monday, April 10,” read the letter, which was signed by Duarte – the only member of the ANC top six who attended the event.

Gauteng sat back and did not lift a finger, insiders said. They did not even bother to mobilise.

“They first heard of the event happening in their back yard through social media. But it didn’t matter whether they received the invite or not, they were not going to waste their time and go there,” said another ANC insider.

Water Affairs and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who is also the head of the ANC organising and campaign committee, announced the plans for Zuma’s birthday party during an ANC Youth League rally last Tuesday, in which she fiercely defended Zuma during a live broadcast – she said the president was not going anywhere and would serve until the end of his term in 2019.

Zuma used his special day to criticise his detractors within and outside the ANC-led alliance amid growing pressure for him to step down.

The calls have grown louder since his Cabinet reshuffle a few weeks ago, which set the markets into a tail spin and ended in the country being downgraded to “junk” status by ratings agencies.

ANC Gauteng spokesperson Sam Modiba said there was nothing untoward about the absence of provincial leaders.

“This was a social event and therefore attendance was not compulsory. It was left to members to decide whether to attend or not. The event organisers were responsible for mobilisation and coordination of the event,” he said.

It appears the regions took on the task of mobilising branches.

Dada Morero, ANC secretary in Johannesburg, said they informed branch leaders so they could pass on the message to members soon after receiving notification from Duarte about the birthday celebration.

“It is not like it is a political event, but it is just a birthday – so that determined the attendance. But it is an official event in the ANC, so there were no issues raised at branch level. I think that if it was official, it would have been something else,” Morero said.

An ANC branch member from Ward 11 in Senaoane in Soweto complained that his branch secretary had said members should arrive at 11:00 for the event, but did not pitch himself.

Other senior leaders who did not attend Zuma’s party, which reportedly cost R8m, included members of the SA Communist Party and Cosatu.

However, seemingly oblivious to his federation’s position calling for Zuma’s head, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini attended and told Zuma to remain strong in the face of the onslaught against him.

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Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  nomvula mokonyane  |  paul mashatile

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