Durban – The National Prayer Day and the launch of Africa Month, which were scheduled to be addressed by President Jacob Zuma on Friday in Durban, was postponed because the ANC failed to mobilise numbers to fill up the Kings Park Stadium, sources claimed.
However Presidency spokesperson Bongani Majola told News24 that the event had been postponed due to insufficient time to ensure sound logistical preparations for an event of this magnitude.
"It will be organised at a later date to be announced in due course," Majola said.
Zuma was expected to address civil society and religious leaders at the Kings Park Stadium in Durban at around 09:00, but by 8:30, no buses had arrived and the stadium stood empty.
This despite frantic preparations on Thursday to prepare the stadium for the event. Late on Thursday, the event was still listed on the president's programme for the next couple of weeks.
An ANC insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told News24 that the event was postponed because of political squabbles in the province.
"The ANC Youth League in the province has pulled out of the elections campaign for the municipal elections. They want the youth to also be made councilors, but the ANC does not want this and so they decided to disassociate themselves from the party," the source claimed.
The source said the youth league boycotted the event and told the party to mobilise masses who would attend the event.
"They cancelled the event because there were going to be buses with empty seats and the stadium was not going to be full. That would have embarrassed the president because this is his home province."
The source said some ANC members were still disgruntled about the outcomes of last year’s provincial conference, which saw Sihle Zikalala ascend to being the provincial chairperson, unseating premier Senzo Mchunu.
DA leader in the province, Zwakele Mncwango, said a full council meeting was cancelled to allow councillors to mobilise people to attend the event.
"On Monday, a suggestion was made to cancel the event because branches were resisting being addressed by the president. Most of the branches in eThekwini support James Nxumalo and Senzo Mchunu, but they lost to Zandile Gumede and Sihle Zikalala."
'They hijack government events'
Mncwango said they were supposed to have full council on Friday, but it was cancelled on Thursday evening and postponed to next month.
"What irritates us is that they hijack government events and use them as ANC rallies," he said.
ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli hit back at Mncwango, saying it was not an ANC event.
When asked if the postponement was an attempt shield the president from addressing a possibly empty stadium, he said: "It is mischievous to say that the stadium was not going to be full. There was a Human Rights Day celebration in Durban and the Moses Mabhida Stadium was full to capacity, The president enjoys our full support."
While Ntuli denied that the National Prayer Day was an ANC event, when News24 arrived at the stadium, men were busy dismantling the stage which was draped in the party’s green, black and gold colours.
A source at the stadium told News24 that the stadium was ready to host the event, but the event was cancelled at the last minute. "They called at around 03:00 to inform us that the event had been cancelled. We were ready to host the event."
Another source said the 32 000-seater stadium was not paid for in time.
"When I got there at around 07:00, two buses were leaving. When I went into the stadium, I was told that organisers failed to secure finances to book the stadium."
The source who asked not to be named said the postponement had nothing to do with the numbers. "Branches were ready to support us, we are very disappointed that it has been postponed," said the man.
'Beyond our control'
Event co-ordinator Pastor Siphiwe Moyo said the event was postponed because people from other provinces wanted to attend.
"People from the Eastern Cape and other parts of KwaZulu-Natal arrived, but we had to postpone the event because of issues that were beyond our control.”
He would not specify what those issues were, but said: "Finances were the least of our problems. It is a lie that branches were not co-operating."
Moyo said the event would possibly be held on May 22.
In a post-Cabinet briefing in Parliament on Friday morning, Minister Jeff Radebe, under upcoming events, mentioned that the president was to officiate at the prayer meeting.
When questioned why the event was postponed, he said: "I have no idea."
At the recent launch of the ANC's election manifesto in Port Elizabeth, addressed by Zuma, they battled to fill the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.
Meanwhile, on Friday the High Court in Pretoria found that the decision taken by former National Prosecuting Authority head Mokotedi Mpshe to drop corruption charges against Zuma in 2009 was irrational.