Nobody is buying it RANJENI MUNUSAMY

2016-12-08 06:01

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe might be an old warhorse, accustomed to dealing with sticky business on behalf of his organisation, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him at a media conference on Tuesday.

The media briefing room at the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg, Albert Luthuli House, was packed to the rafters due to massive public interest in the outcome of last weekend’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.

ANC NEC meetings take place every two months, with special sessions called occasionally, but this meeting was particularly significant because of an unexpected debate on President Jacob Zuma.

NEC member and Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom made a call for Zuma to step down from his position and was supported by a number of other members who made the case for why the president should not continue to be the ANC’s number one deployee in the state.

They came up against a rigorous fight- back from allies of the president, who attacked them and demanded that they resign from their own positions because they did not have confidence in their leader. The debate unearthed a number of issues that had been kept buried because of the conspiracy of silence in ANC structures about Zuma’s leadership.

Every time a scandal emerged, the response of the ANC was to close ranks and defend the president.

The leadership also shut down debate in ANC structures, including on the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla and the issue of state capture.

It is apparent that the ANC can no longer keep the lid shut on its massive can of worms.

The NEC debate allowed many people to vent about issues they had kept silent about, including Zuma’s inappropriate relationship with the Gupta family, the infestation of corruption in the state and the Marikana massacre, for which there is still no justice for the slaughter of 34 mineworkers.

The debate was so fiery that two NEC members almost came to blows.

Unfortunately for Mantashe, he had to be the one to tell the large contingent of domestic and international journalists that after the NEC’s protracted debate, the meeting decided that Zuma did not have to step down and life should move on as normal.

Nobody bought the story, even though Mantashe was emphatic that those who argued for the president to leave office were “persuaded” into a consensus position that Zuma should stay.

Because Zuma’s defenders blocked a vote being taken, the balance of support on the issue remains untested.

Mantashe, who was the one who brought the news to the world in September 2008 that the ANC NEC had decided to recall former president Thabo Mbeki from office, now had the unenviable task of communicating that Zuma was not really the source of the ANC’s decline.

“The NEC resolved it was more urgent to direct the energies of the ANC in its entirety to working towards the unity of the movement,” Mantashe said.

He also told journalists that the stability of the ANC could only be assured with the “improved ideological clarity of the membership”.

He had to fend off questions about the incongruity of ANC ministers voting against a motion of no confidence in the president in Parliament but arguing for his removal behind closed doors.

“We must never allow that, we must deal with our issues, difficult at times, but never surrender our forces to the generals of the enemy,” Mantashe said.

The ANC often perceives itself to be in war zone instead of a healthy, dynamic democracy, and therefore has a penchant for referring to opposition parties, civil society organisations and occasionally the media as “the enemy”.

With pressure coming from many quarters, the ANC is desperate to paper over the cracks and is struggling to contain the Zuma fallout.

The real enemy of the ANC is the one within and no amount of spin-doctoring or ideological camouflage can obscure this hard truth.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political
journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick.

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