ANC tries to put out fires

2008-10-06 00:00

Cape Town — A worried African National Congress (ANC) acted hurriedly this weekend to try to limit the damage caused by its decision to recall former president Thabo Mbeki by deploying the party leadership to the provinces to explain the decision at grassroots level.

Despite official denials, informed sources say some of the senior leaders realise that the present damage could have a detrimental effect on the party’s performance in next year’s elections.

Apparently this argument is now taking preference over the views of alliance leaders Blade Nzimande (SACP) and Zwelinzima Vavi (Cosatu), who say the party should simply get rid of unhappy members such as Mosiuoa Lekota.

The meetings with strategic branches and key provincial leaders coincided with a summit of governing alliance leaders in Johannesburg.

ANC president Jacob Zuma cancelled a planned visit to the Eastern Cape to attend this meeting.

This follows a controversial decision by Lekota to publicly rebuke the ANC, which unleashed a virulent reaction from the party and sparked persistent rumours about a possible split in the ANC.

Lekota said yesterday that support from fellow party members who share his feelings has been overwhelming.

“There are many who share my views on the issue,” he said.

This weekend he sent another letter to secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in which he reminded him that the ANC and the SA Communist Party (SACP) are not one and the same (Mantashe is also secretary-general of the SACP).

Lekota reminded Mantashe that the ANC and the SACP have always been separate entities and that the ANC cannot allow the SACP to prescribe to the organisation.

The reply to Lekota’s first letter (written by Jeff Radebe) was unsatisfactory, because none of the burning issues Lekota had raised was discussed.

“I sadly take note of the veiled threat of suspension. It is a pity, because that is usually what bullies do when they cannot offer you convincing answers to your questions,” he said in the letter.

The ball is now in their court, he said yesterday.

Lekota did not want to speculate about the rumours of a breakaway party, but he said that “judged simply by the number of people who are unhappy, [these rumours] cannot be ignored”.

ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte, a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) said they are not planning to meet Lekota.

She confirmed that the party leadership used the weekend to explain the NEC’s decision to recall former president Thabo Mbeki to its branches and added that the issue had been discussed in detail.

Although the wisdom of this step was initially questioned, it has had a positive outcome.

The recent controversy and public strife would not harm the party, she said.

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