Mantashe: Centralised power is 'dangerous to the incumbent'

2017-12-18 14:08
Outgoing ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. (Mujahid Safodien)

Outgoing ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. (Mujahid Safodien)

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Johannesburg - Outgoing ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has admitted that the ANC confronted "threats" that threatened to tear the party apart, which were heightened by the "offensive" against President Jacob Zuma.

He also warned that centralised power in the Presidency was "dangerous."

This was contained in Mantashe’s organisational report presented to the ANC’s 54th national conference, which is underway at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg. 

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Some of the threats included Zuma's Cabinet reshuffles, his handling of the Nkandla issue, being implicated in allegations of state capture by his friends the Gupta family, and growing calls for him to step down - even within the alliance.  

In the report, Mantashe highlighted the March Cabinet reshuffling, that saw three top six officials publicly disagree with Zuma over the firing of finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

Mantashe, outgoing deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and outgoing treasurer general Zweli Mkize said at the time that the decision had been made "somewhere else".

"The incident was, however, managed swiftly. It, nevertheless, highlighted the importance of a thorough going consultation among officials, as a tool for unity, at the apex of the organisation," Mantashe said in the report. 

'Strategic centre of power'

He said the "incident highlighted irritation with the exercise of power".

The constitutional powers of the president to fire and hire Cabinet ministers, has been a source of contention within the party, as Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet three times, without consulting the party’s top six and alliance partners. 

His first reshuffle was in 2015, when he fired finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with relatively unknown Des van Rooyen. Three days later, following pressure from the top six and business, he recanted. 

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The last reshuffle was in October, when Zuma fired SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande as higher education minister, angering the party and Cosatu.

There was a proposal to amend the powers of the incoming national executive committee (NEC), to give it powers to recall its public representatives. 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mantashe suggested that the president should be reigned in, to restrengthen the ANC as "the strategic centre of power".

Party deployees

The new NEC must have the task of putting content into that, he said.

"Once power is overly centralised, it becomes dangerous to the incumbent. Once you allow people around you to exercise power on your behalf, it becomes quite exciting to lead," Mantashe said. 

He said the actions of party deployees in government, were impacting on the party, using the management of the Nkandla debacle as an example.

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"Anything that happens in government, when ANC is leading, impacts directly on the ANC. Whether the ANC is part of it or not. If we say we are not part of it, we wash our hands, we do that on our peril.

"If departments don’t manage a project in Nkandla that will impact on us and it becomes an issue, that depends on the narrative, if we are not generous with information," Mantashe said. 

The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had failed to uphold the Constitution when he didn't pay back the money spent on non-security upgrades at Nkandla.

The party's handling of the Nkandla crisis, has been highlighted as one of the contributions to its decline at the polls. It also prompted calls from within the ANC for Zuma to be recalled. 

Visit our special report, #ANCVotes, for all the news, analysis and opinions about the ANC’s national elective conference.

Read more on:    anc  |  blade nzimande  |  pravin gordhan  |  jacob zuma  |  gwede mantashe  |  anc votes  |  anc leadership race  |  politics

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