Chinese may fund ANC’s political school

The Communist Party of China could help fund the building of the ANC’s political school to the tune of hundreds of millions of rands.

City Press has learnt that senior ANC members met a Chinese delegation on July 22 at the farm on the banks of the Vaal River between Parys and Potchefstroom, where the school will be built.

Funding for the project, which is believed to cost up to R800 million, was discussed at the meeting.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who heads the ANC’s subcommittee on political education, confirmed the meeting.

Chinese ambassador in South Africa Tian Xuejun and a Chinese delegation of about 10 members are believed to have met behind closed doors with ANC secretary- general Gwede Mantashe, Mthethwa and ANC treasurer- general Zweli Mkhize.

The ANC bought the 133 hectare farm in 2010 for R13 million from Platmin CEO Tom Dale. The farm was, however, valued at only R7.5 million by the Tlokwe council.

A source close to the transaction said it was clear that the ANC’s financial position at the time had been weak. “When it came to paying, the ANC couldn’t pay,” the source said, adding that the party had to scramble for funds before the sale could go ahead.

City Press has learnt that an Investec loan of R13.5?million was registered in the name of an ANC property company, after which the farm was bought for cash for R13 million.

Four years later, building work hasn’t started on the farm because of a lack of funds and the red tape involved in getting permission to build.

The farm is in the Vredefort Dome, a World Heritage Site. Zoned for agriculture and currently producing vegetables and pecan nuts, the farm must be rezoned before it can be used for other purposes. Mthethwa said the ANC had learnt restrictions on building in the Vredefort Dome did not apply to its farm.

Mantashe and ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa earlier this week categorically denied that the ANC was talking to the Chinese about funding. But on Friday Mthethwa confirmed talks were under way.

“The Chinese Communist Party are our friends. We talked them through our plans and they approved of the school. They are very supportive.”

The ANC resolved at its Polokwane conference in 2007 that an ANC member who wanted to serve on the party’s national executive committee should be trained at the party’s political school.

Political education for members is already happening at venues countrywide, but the school in North West will be the main campus.

Lecture halls are to be built first, followed by residences and recreational facilities.

Mthethwa would not confirm the cost or details of the project. “The development will depend on what our friends are prepared to put in. Ideally, with the space that we have, there will be a school as well as boarding facilities.”

The ANC isn’t only talking to the Chinese Communist Party about funding, he said, but also “many other people”.

Last week’s meeting was one in a series with the Chinese Communist Party, which has been in a political education partnership with the ANC for a long time.

“They have had their own political school for 50 years already,” Mthethwa said.

“We exchange ideas. We have talks with friends all over the world, also with Cuba. We are looking at China’s model, but there isn’t just one model.”

The ANC has sent many of its leaders and MPs to China for political education, paid for by the Chinese, over the past few years.

Former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe was announced as the person to head the school at the ANC’s Mangaung conference in 2012, but it is unclear whether he is still involved.

The Chinese embassy this week said the Communist Party of China “establishes and develops friendly relations with political parties in other countries in accordance with the principles of independence, complete equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs”.

“Based on these principles, we have maintained friendly relations with the political parties in South Africa, including the ANC.”

It referred specific queries about the political school to the ANC.

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