Blade, Yengeni at war

2012-06-16 18:16

ANC leaders explode as Mangaung battle heats up

Simmering tension between senior ANC leaders exploded this week, with Tony Yengeni telling SA Communist Party (SACP) leader Blade Nzimande: “Who the f**k do you think you are?”

The bust-up came after a heated national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday at which the governing party’s fault lines were brutally exposed.

This week saw numerous senior party leaders taking a public stand in the ANC’s election race.

» President Jacob Zuma unofficially launched his “second term” campaign at the party’s centenary lecture in Johannesburg on Friday.

» Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe showed his hand during a speech at Liliesleaf in Johannesburg on Thursday by questioning the “second transition”, a policy proposal being pushed by Zuma and his supporters.

» On Friday, expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema said Zuma’s presidency was a “terrible mistake” and he should be voted out at the ANC’s Mangaung conference in December.

» At Monday’s NEC meeting, Zuma faced a “rebellion”, with party leaders accusing him of being “dictatorial”.

» Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday, apparently emboldened by the NEC’s decision not to review Malema’s expulsion.

The scuffle between Yengeni and Nzimande, SACP general secretary and Zuma’s closest lieutenant, was confirmed by at least two NEC members who witnessed the incident.

Yengeni couldn’t be reached for comment and Nzimande refused to comment “on matters that are internal to the NEC”.

Eyewitnesses said the men were seen arguing while seated in the back row of the St George’s Hotel hall while a debate about Malema’s expulsion from the party was taking place.

Zuma’s parliamentary counsellor, Siphiwe Nyanda, told the meeting people couldn’t speak freely because “there’s a feeling that we are under a dictatorship”.

Nzimande objected to this.

Yengeni then took issue with Nzimande, saying the SACP leader wanted to shut people down when they disagreed with him. Yengeni told Nzimande that he “doesn’t know the ANC and its traditions because he’s originally from the IFP”.

Nzimande previously denied having been active in the IFP.

“He (Yengeni) said he (Nzimande) is wet behind the ears because he joined the ANC very late,” said an anti-Zuma NEC member who overheard the conversation.

The two warring men sat in the same row at the meeting, a few chairs away from each other as the argument took place.

“It was a spur of the moment thing. I saw them, I was watching them as they were talking,” the eyewitness said.

Another anti-Zuma NEC member said: “We are close to rebellion. Perhaps that’s too strong a word ... No, it’s not. The organisation is not happy.”

The source said the situation was worse than before the party’s 2007 Polokwane conference, when Zuma contested former president Thabo Mbeki in a fierce battle.

“I think Mangaung will be worse than Polokwane,” the source said, adding that Mbeki never “shut down” Zuma, who had opposed him.

Zuma was originally scheduled to speak at a Youth Day event in Port Elizabeth yesterday, but instead sent Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, who was greeted with pro-Malema songs.

Chabane was booed and heckled during his speech.

Zuma left yesterday for the G20 summit, which starts tomorrow in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Malema voiced his opposition to Zuma at a public meeting in Thohoyandou on Friday.

He said it was a “terrible mistake” to elect Zuma.

“It’s a mistake that we will never forgive ourselves for. He is not the one we told you he was,” Malema said.

He urged Zuma “to do himself justice” and not make himself available for re-election in December.

Zuma seemingly launched his second-term campaign on Friday by laying into leaders who oppose him and who criticise the Zuma lobby’s proposal for a “second transition”.

Zuma’s opponents are set to shoot down the proposal at the party’s policy conference next week in Midrand.

Motlanthe, who is seen as Zuma’s strongest contender, has criticised the second transition.

On Thursday he asked: “From where to where? What constituted the first transition? Have all of those tasks been accomplished or not?”

Zuma defended the policy by likening those opposed to it to opposition politicians.

“They will never agree with us because we don’t come from the same place, from the same town, from the same street. In fact, if they were not worried, we should be worried that we are doing something wrong,” he said.

In an apparent dig at Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, who has quietly started a campaign for a leadership position and who openly criticised Zuma at Monday’s NEC meeting, Zuma said: “Money leadership will not get you anywhere.

Delegates should be ashamed of electing somebody because they have money.”

Nzimande told City Press the second transition was also an effort to prevent the capture of the ANC.

“People are willing to sell the organisation to the highest bidder to get positions. This is not unrelated to the issue of the second transition.

"Often in a liberation movement, elements emerge that want to capture the movement for their own narrow interests. This leads to the revolution being defeated. Part of the second transition is to defeat attempts to steal the organisation.”

At Zuma’s lecture a few members in the audience sang songs in his favour while waving two fingers, signalling they wanted Zuma to be re-elected in Mangaung for a second term.

This came despite a party sanction on leadership discussions until October.

Meanwhile, pro-Zuma organisers have been quietly lobbying provinces to take “mature” delegates to Mangaung.

“We’re going to advocate that the majority of delegates to Mangaung must be middle-aged to elderly people so that there can be dignity and to avoid the possible rebellion,” said a pro-Zuma provincial leader.

The party plans for stricter measures during the conference that will prevent delegates from “loading” commissions with disruptive delegates, a Cabinet minister told City Press.

– Additional reporting by Sabelo Skiti

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