Kathrada was within his rights to pen letter - Zweli Mkhize

2017-03-30 23:51
Ahmed Kathrada. (News24, File)

Ahmed Kathrada. (News24, File)

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Johannesburg - Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada was well within his rights to write an open letter to President Jacob Zuma in which he urged him to resign, the ANC's treasurer general Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday.

"Comrade Kathrada wrote us a letter, he raised issues, and he was entitled to raise those issues," Mkhize told News24.

He said Kathrada had a right, as a leader of the movement, to do so.

"He is our leader, he is our mentor so if he's got issues, he's got a right to raise those issues and therefore when he did so, it was acceptable.

"What you do with the issues and the contents and how you debate them and how you resolve them is a separate matter, but you can't criticise Kathrada for raising issues with us because he is the one who is entitled to call us and raise issues with us, so there's no problem."

Those who had made statements during the 87-year-old stalwart's funeral on Wednesday should not be held to their utterances, Mkhize said.

Funeral not a 'political conference'

"There is a saying that says 'efelweyo ayibanjelwazwi' – that means when people are mourning, don't hold them [to account] for the things they say."

He said Kathrada's funeral was not meant to turn into a political conference.

"We went to go and bury comrade Kathrada, that's what we were all about. It was not a conference, it was not a place where we should raise issues and then somebody must respond to them or anything [like that]."

He said the ruling party's approach would be to deal with the matters raised in the letter at the party's upcoming conference where stalwarts would be given two days to debate these and other issues raised in letters previously addressed to party leaders.

"We want to dedicate discussions onto the issues that have been raised, those letters that were sent to us, the issues that have been raised by branches, issues that were raised by the stalwarts, the analysis that we got, our research that showed us problems, all of those issues are going to be discussed at that level."

He said the party had already drawn up documents and proposals for how the ANC should avoid or solve the problems it was facing.

"So everything that you have heard yesterday isn't anything you have not heard before, and all of those issues have been pulled together so that they'll be discussed now."

Kathrada 'deeply disturbed'

On Wednesday, while delivering a eulogy at Kathrada's funeral, former president Kgalema Motlanthe told a packed marquee that Kathrada's legacy was anchored in humility, democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism and justice.

"These principles, which comrade Kathy lived for through his life, were not just hollow statements," Motlanthe said.

"It would be disingenuous to pay tribute to the life of comrade Ahmed Kathrada and to pretend that he was not deeply disturbed by the current failure of post-apartheid politics."

He then read out an open letter that Kathrada had written to Zuma in April last year.

The letter followed the Constitutional Court's ruling that Zuma violated the Constitution by disregarding the Public Protectors' report on his Nkandla homestead; former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene being sacked from his job, which sent the rand plummeting; and current Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas publicly announcing that the Gupta family had offered him Nene's job.

In his letter Kathrada said: "In the face of such persistently widespread criticism, condemnation and demand, is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down."

Motlanthe criticised

Motlanthe highlighted that to date Kathrada had not received a response to his letter. The former president received a standing ovation upon completing his address.

However, after the funeral, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters that there was no intention to respond to the letter because Kathrada's audience was the public.

"It was an open letter in the public eye and the public responded. If you write me a private letter, I'll respond to that letter back to you," he said.

On Thursday the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), former Nelson Mandela Bay ANC chairperson Andile Lungisa and suspended Western Cape ANC chairperson Marius Fransman levelled harsh criticism at Motlanthe.

"It is heart-breaking to see the funeral of this revolutionary colossal and servant of our people being turned into factional pornography and grandstanding by otherwise honourable leaders," Lungisa said.

Fransman criticised the trend of addressing ANC issues at funerals, and accused the speakers of failing to respect the outcome of democratic processes.

Fransman said this was "a strategy to deliver a soft coup d'état".

'Mangaung hangover'

The ANCYL expressed anger that Zuma was "practically barred" from the funeral.

It said Ahmed Kathrada Foundation director Neeshan Balton had "shamelessly" used his position to bar Zuma from attending the funeral of his comrade. 

Zuma said he opted not to attend the funeral in compliance with the Kathrada family's wishes.

"Even washed-up pensioned politicians who are still to recover from the Mangaung hangover have found themselves unable to contain their hatred for the president," the league said.

They vowed to protect Zuma and urged him to go through with the rumoured Cabinet reshuffle which, according to speculation, could see him fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

During the funeral, Gordhan shed a few tears after receiving a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance.

Speculation over Cabinet

This was after Balton had asked him to rise, explaining that Kathrada had always supported the minister during his rocky political journey.

"Irrespective of whether you are minister or not in days or weeks to come, you remain true to the values and principles that Ahmed Kathrada would be proud of," Balton said to loud applause.

On Thursday morning Bloomberg reported that Zuma had told the ANC's top six members and officials of the SACP that he planned to fire Gordhan because he was blocking his policies.

Three of the ANC's top six officials opposed Zuma's plan to fire Gordhan and Jonas at a meeting on Monday and the leaders agreed to meet again on April 3, according to a source, Bloomberg said.

When asked for comment on the sidelines of the ANC Progressive Business Forum's Construction Summit in Midrand, Mkhize declined to comment on the matter, saying any news of a reshuffle would be discussed by government and not the ruling party.

"There are issues which I am not able to deal with [including] the speculation around the reshuffle.

Uncertainties 'nothing new'

"When you have got a reshuffle, you're going to have to wait for a government statement. The ANC can only respond after that," Mkhize told reporters.

When asked whether the ruling party had any concerns about the impact such a reshuffle may have on the economy, Mkhize said economic uncertainties were nothing new.

"There will always be issues which might raise uncertainty but what you need is a platform for dialogue, so that each time there is uncertainty, people can come together, find solutions and move on. Good faith, trust and confidence [are] what will help us to deal with uncertainties. 

"There will never be a time when there are no issues," Mkhize said.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  ahmed kathrada  |  politics

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