ANC unity not a pipe dream - Mantashe

Johannesburg - Uniting the African National Congress is not a pipe dream, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says.

"It’s never a pipe dream to build unity for an organisation. It is what you aspire, you set for yourself, to be an objective, and you invest time and energy in it," Mantashe said on Thursday.

He was addressing journalists as the party's first national executive committee meeting was underway in Irene, Pretoria, to finalise its January 8 statement which will be delivered by President Jacob Zuma on Sunday.

The theme for the Orlando Stadium celebration to mark the ANC's 105th birthday celebrations is Unity in Action.

It comes as the party battles deep divisions, which have intensified ahead of its elective conference in December. Some within the party have already pronounced a preference for who should succeed Zuma.

READ: ANC's January 8 bash 'much ado about nothing' - Numsa

Divisions

Mantashe admitted that divisions had weakened the party.

"What we are saying is, we must all work together; we must work together for unity and cohesion. An organisation that is not united is weaker," Mantashe said.

NEC members and provincial leaders have been criss-crossing the province, in an attempt to mobilise people to fill up the Orlando stadium. However, Zuma has until now been absent.  

Mantashe told reporters that Zuma had apologised for not being in Gauteng.

He said Zuma had arrived from his private home of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, where he had spent the festive season.

However, he did not elaborate on the reasons for his absence on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mantashe said the NEC meeting was postponed to Thursday because of Zuma's absence.

"President has arrived today from home. He put specific apology for being at home 3rd and 4th. NEC was supposed to be on 4th. He will be moving all over the province," Mantashe said.

He said the door-to-door campaigns were also designed to follow up on issues raised during the local government elections, where the party suffered an 8% loss of votes nationwide.

Mantashe said the ANC was hopeful that it would fill the 40 000-seater Orlando stadium, and an overflow organised for Thursday.

In 2016, it faced embarrassment after failing to fill the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, where it held its local government elections manifesto launch.

"When you go for a celebration, you go for maximum turn out, but if you don’t get it, and you come up sub-optimal, is a consequence, it’s not what you planned."

"We always plan to fill stadium. We like filing stadiums and fill overflows as well. If it doesn’t happen, we get disappointed as well," Mantashe said.

He said the NEC statement would give hope and direction to the activists and foot soldiers of the ANC.

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