Melanie Verwoerd

Sinister motives behind Lekota's attack on Ramaphosa

2019-02-20 08:41
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

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The idea of someone somewhere giving a signal for a coordinated campaign to damage the country and especially the president to start, is terrifying, writes Melanie Verwoerd.

Last Wednesday during the debate on the State of the Nation Address (SONA), Cope MP Terror Lekota did what Terror does best – he generated a lot of media attention and noise.

Let me state upfront that I have a lot of respect for his leadership and for surviving torture and imprisonment during the apartheid years.

However, I fail to understand what he was trying to achieve with his performance last week. During the debate he accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of colluding with the Secret Branch which, according to Lekota, led to his and other comrades' incarceration on Robben Island. This all apparently happened in 1971 when Ramaphosa was only 21.

READ: The day an ANC president had to defend his struggle credentials

The president responded to Lekota's accusation the next day. It was simply heartbreaking listening to him relate the events at the time – the police harassment and loss of comrades as well as the effect on his family and specifically his father. Although he spoke softly and calmly, the emotion was evident – not only in what he said – but also in what he did not, like being tortured at the hands of the security branch.

The president thoroughly dealt with the accusations, so there is no need to repeat it here. What interests me more is what Terror Lekota was up to. Presumably he received this "information" in recent times – otherwise he surely would have brought it up a long time ago.

So the question is, who gave him the information? Was it his friends at AfriForum, or some of his hunting buddies who might have connections to the old apartheid spooks? Or did it come from some post 1994 spooks who are not happy with the president's recent announcement that the intelligence service will be overhauled? He should tell us.

The second question relates to the way in which he made this "information" public. Why did he not privately sort this out with the president? Surely given their history Ramaphosa would have seen him and they could have cleared the air.

Knowing how explosive this was going to be, it is pretty obvious that Lekota wanted as much media bang for his buck, whilst still under the protection of parliamentary privilege. That seems to me a real betrayal.  

Apart from the personal issue between Ramaphosa and an old comrade, there is a much bigger issue that should concern all of us. Lekota would know very well how dangerous these comments are. By raising them so irresponsibly, he was adding to a dialogue which could be disastrous for the country.

ALSO READ: Mpumelelo Mkhabela - Lekota's political tactics are tired and ineffective

Many young people do not know the history of the anti-apartheid struggle and they have been influenced by lies spread by many – including now Terror Lekota. This is extremely dangerous for the present and also damaging for our attempt at building a new future. 

Having listened carefully to both Lekota and the president's response, I have no doubt that Lekota was being used. The question is by whom and to what end?

Watching events unfold over the last ten days or so, I was filled with a real sense of dread bordering on… well, terror.

First we had the almost complete collapse of the electricity grid last Monday – a few days after Ramaphosa's announcement that Eskom will be unbundled. Then as he was trying to resolve this national crisis, he suddenly had to deal with accusations of having collaborated with the apartheid security police.

In the meantime, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule announced on behalf of Luthuli House that Eskom will not be privatised nor will any jobs be cut. Then there was also talk of the whole MTN/Turkcell drama when Ramaphosa was chair of the board of MTN resurfacing.

It is possible that all of these issues surfaced purely coincidentally. I hope so. However, we are three months away from most probably the most important election South Africa has had since 1994 during which it will be crucial for Ramaphosa's political survival that he delivers a big majority for the ANC.

So one has to wonder whether there is an orchestrated fightback happening from his detractors in the ANC in the hope of damaging the electoral outcome after which they could launch a campaign to get rid of Ramaphosa and "take the ANC back" (to quote Magashule).

The idea of someone somewhere giving a signal for a coordinated campaign to damage the country and especially the president to start, is terrifying. We know that former president Jacob Zuma had a large web of supporters throughout the civil service and parastatals – many who are still there and could possibly (in the hope of not going to jail) be motivated to act for him and his faction.

Of course, if such a fightback is indeed happening, the Zuma faction don't need to actually collapse, for example, Eskom to achieve their goals. They just need to send a warning signal of what they are able to do in order to paralyse or severely constrain the president.

Comments by ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa and ANC NEC member Senzo Mchunu last week confirmed that Ramaphosa and his officials are watching this closely. The question remains, however, to what extent they are able to counter or prevent this kind of campaign from happening. Let's hope the revamped intelligence services will be able to help the president to foil any such attempts.

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    mosiuoa le­kota  |  cyril rama­phosa


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