'I didn't think our movement could get so low' - Mthembu on dirty tricks

2017-09-08 11:01
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu. (Conrad Bornman, Gallo Images, Rapport)

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu. (Conrad Bornman, Gallo Images, Rapport)

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Cape Town - African National Congress chief whip Jackson Mthembu has said he never thought his party would have to deal with the level of "sleaze" emanating from within in the run-up to its presidential elections.

Mthembu spoke to News24 this week following a report in the Sunday Independent alleging that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was engaged in at least eight extramarital affairs.

He said the allegations were party of a dirty tricks campaign to discredit Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa has dismissed the allegations as a political smear campaign, admitting to only one affair, that he said ended eight years ago.

READ: 'Targeted attacks will not deter me' - Ramaphosa

Former party spokesperson Mthembu was adamant that the allegations were only part of a ploy to damage Ramaphosa's campaign promises to clean up the party.

"They are sleaze, they are below the belt campaigning with one purpose: Of discrediting the deputy president from becoming the president of the ANC in December," he said emphatically.

"What is behind this so-called exposé by the Sunday Independent and other people like Kenny Kunene is meant to stop the deputy president."

Businessman Kunene has also released information about one of the woman who, he claims, is linked to Ramaphosa in the leaked private emails. He has, however, provided no evidence of any relationship between them.

Mthembu admitted that it was not the first time that a disinformation campaign had surfaced ahead of ANC leadership contests. The sensitive nature of the revelations, however, made it particularly distasteful.

"[And] not just in relation to the deputy president, but also those who are supportive of him may be targeted with this sleaze and this dirt.

"I didn't think our movement could get so low. It's very unfortunate that bedroom politics has defined campaigning in the movement."

READ: We want our money back, Ramaphosa warns state looters

'We are in bad shape'

It was no surprise that the story had come in the week that the ANC's nomination process for new leadership had opened, he said.

Worse still, he believed the episodes would get worse in the three-month run-up to the party's elective conference in December. The expected escalation may not even spare him, Mthembu said.

"If President Ramaphosa can be [targeted], who are we, those of us who are following him?"

Mthembu acknowledged that the apparent infighting would send the message that the party's leadership was in "bad shape.

"We ourselves have said we are in bad shape. We have factions, we are divided, and this clearly illustrates the point that the ANC has made: We are a house divided.

"But I don't have a problem, in any organisation there are divisions... but I never thought these divisions would be occasioned by personal, private bedroom matters.

"When you throw that into the campaign, you want to undress the person, discredit that person, character assassinate a person about who he is or not sleeping with, my problem is, that doesn't deal with the national democratic revolution."

'Our problem is state capture'

Mthembu was very open about his support for Ramaphosa, saying he strongly believed that he was the person the party needed to wrestle it away from state capture "challenges".

"We have got state capture challenges. The deputy president has been very eloquent by what he thinks needs to happen. We need to come clean. We need to dig deep. We need to have a judicial commission of inquiry established, we need to arrest those that have brought us here, and I agree with him."

The ANC could not turn around government's challenges without tackling the state capture issue, which was on a national level.

State security apparatuses were again being mooted as aiding in the access of private emails. Mthembu said that it was not new and that the hacked emails most likely came from people in state security.

"When [former finance minister] Pravin Gordhan was attacked using state instruments, we voiced our opinion. We should condemn any use of state instruments for political gain."

Mthembu said the party now needed to get to its elective conference without reaching a point of no return.

"We just hope that it must not get uglier. We just hope we will be able to reach a point where we are at conference, and that that conference will elect the best people in the interest of the ANC."

"If we get to the conference, we have a better chance."

READ: Article alleging Ramaphosa extramarital affairs published

Scandal a 'non-issue' for the public

Mthembu believed the public would not be fooled by, or even care about, the scandal surrounding Ramaphosa. If every current ANC official had their bedroom secrets revealed, there would be no-one in government, he said, quoting media columns.

"Of course it's still bad, we will not defend cheating. It's bad for the organisation. But it doesn't disqualify one to get rid of corruption, and to rid the organisation of all the ills that we're faced with."

Ramaphosa was still his candidate, because he had never been found on the wrong side of the law, was not corrupt, and never used state resources to benefit his family and friends.

"There are allegations of state instruments being used. All of us should investigate and get to the truth.

"But of course the state instruments are working with factions in the ANC who want to stop the deputy president, so obviously those will be the prime suspects in this."

Those who were threatened by Ramaphosa being elevated to president were those manipulating standing ANC processes.

'These things come back around'

Mthembu said he didn't know the details of the alleged shooting attack on Kunene, but even then, he wasn't interested. Kunene claims that unknown hitmen had fired on a car he was driving in on Monday night, September 4.

"Any violence against someone, we won't support. It seems as if some things were reported before it even happened by some television stations," he said on Kunene's claims.

"Of course, Kenny Kunene is also one of those who are party to this discrediting of the deputy president. That is his life, but if I was him, I would not advise that he 'dangle'.

"These things come around. When you try and expose someone's bedroom life, the likelihood is it will come back to you as well to haunt you."

Ramaphosa tried to address the allegations "embroiling him" in the National Assembly on Wednesday before a scheduled question session.

Opposition MPs were adamant that they didn't care about his personal life, and it was unnecessary for him to account to Parliament on the reports.

He said he wanted to be open and take responsibility in front of his colleagues. He would thus be releasing another statement on the matter in the coming days.

Read more on:    anc  |  jackson mthembu  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  cape town  |  anc leadership race  |  parliament 2017

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