A rumble in the ANC’s jungle

2012-06-30 00:00

ANC leaders and delegates attending the last day of the party’s policy conference may have thought they were watching a South African version of the “rumble in the jungle”.

While it was not in the league of the historic 1974 boxing match in the then Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, they were nevertheless treated to a bout of fisticuffs between two angry delegates, apparently from the North West.

Describing how the pair came to blows in full view of the ANC’s top brass including President Jacob Zuma, a delegate said: “It was a left-right, right-left.”

The session was about the much vaunted report about state intervention in the economy, particularly mining, which was chaired by ANC policy head Jeff Radebe.

The report was presented by Enoch Godongwana, and provincial representatives were given an opportunity to speak from the floor.

A North West delegate contradicted what had been said earlier by the province’s representative, which apparently prompted the melee.

Zuma, followed by Gwede Mantashe and Mathews Phosa, left the stage, leaving it to the chairperson to try to restore order. While some delegates said this was because of the brawl, others claimed they had left to attend a steering committee meeting to put the finishing touches to the president’s closing address.

Sapa reports that the media were called to the Midrand venue to hear Zuma speak at 4.20 pm, but by 5.40 pm they were still being kept in a holding room.

Reporters could be heard shouting and whistling in the main hall. A security guard was heard saying “Kuyafiwa”, meaning “things are tense” in Zulu.

A man was heard shouting “Order, order!” from inside the hall.

ANC Youth League members claimed that en route to the holding room, league deputy secretary-general Kenitswe Mosenogi ran after the president, apparently wanting to raise concerns about how Radebe had chaired the session.

Accounts differ about what happened next, with some members claiming that one of Zuma’s bodyguards “klapped” her, while others said she was merely blocked from approaching the president.

Mosenogi last night denied the guard had struck her and rubbished messages on SMSes from league members claiming the president had apologised to her.

She said the president would not have had to apologise “as nothing happened”.

When the closing session finally took place, Zuma made no reference to the fight that had broken out earlier. Instead, he praised delegates for their good behaviour.

“Comrades, you have displayed exceptional conduct and restored the integrity of the organisation,” he said to laughter, jeers, cheers and whistles.

It had been a landmark conference amid much speculation, he added.

“I’ve always said that people believe they know and understand the ANC and yet they always prove themselves less knowledgeable about the ANC,” he said to loud cheers.

But Zuma did take a swipe at members who transgressed the rules. “Conference emphatically condemned factionalism and agreed that political discipline is a necessary ingredient without which no organisation can achieve its goals.

“Members who are found guilty of wrongdoing in other institutions of society should also be subjected to internal disciplinary processes in line with the ANC code of conduct.”

He said there should be no favouritism when it came to disciplining ANC members.

Zuma also talked about the achievements of the conference and how it re-affirmed the need for faster and more radical economic transformation.

“A situation as grave as it is in terms of the economy cannot continue. At some point those who feel the pain might say ‘enough is enough’,” he said. — Witness Correspondents and Sapa.

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