ANC poised to purge ultra-leftists

2002-10-19 22:18

Johannesburg - The ANC appears determined to purge what it considers to be ultra-leftist elements from the party's highest decision-making body - the national executive committee (NEC) - when the organisation holds its national conference in December.

As the ANC this week opened the process of nominating individuals for its NEC, ANC president Thabo Mbeki again intensified his war of words against Cosatu, this time going as far as to challenge the labour movement to call a rally to explain its "lies" against the government to the people.

In his address at Rosslyn, Pretoria, where he kicked off his Imbizo road show, Mbeki again accused the Cosatu leadership of lying and misleading the people.

He is also on record as saying the party's December conference would have to debate what he saw as the ultra-left attack on the government. The conference - which is due to take place at Stellenbosch in the Western Cape - will come amid souring relations between the ANC and its alliance partners, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP).

The process of nomination of NEC members, which is expected to be forwarded to the electoral commission by November 15, will for the first time allow the ANC Youth League and Women's League to put forward candidates for election.

Both leagues have also joined the fray in recent weeks by unequivocally attacking what they term "ultra-leftists" within the ANC.

There is speculation that the nomination process will provide the party hardliners with an opportunity to deal with those individuals who are considered the ultra-left.

SACP officials who are also NEC members - such as its secretary-general Dr Blade Nzimande, his deputy Jeremy Cronin and Phillip Dexter - could be casualties of the nomination process.

In a speech at the recent policy conference, Mbeki said it was important to deal with the issue of the offensive of the ultra-left against the ANC as this ultra-left worked to implant itself within the ANC ranks.

"It will be the task of the congress to make the matter very plain to everybody that the ANC will defend itself against all attacks, whether from the right wing or the ultra-left, as it has done during the nine decades of its existence," he said.

Nzimande and Cronin bore the brunt of ANC criticism in recent weeks when they joined the anti-privatisation protest led by Cosatu.

Asked whether he was worried that he could lose his position in the ANC NEC, Nzimande said: "I'm not concerned about my standing (in the NEC). If I'm elected, then let it be so. But if I'm not, I will not crack my head over it."

The NEC has lost four of its stalwarts since its last elections in 1997. The four are former safety and security minister Steve Tshwete, former defence minister Joe Modise, former foreign affairs minister Alfred Nzo and former ANC election unit head Peter Mokaba.

Those who have not been in good health will also be replaced. They are former education minister Professor Sibusiso Bengu and former intelligence minister Joe Nhlanhla.

In addition, ANC deputy secretary-general Thenjiwe Mtintsho is expected to turn down her nomination because of ill-health.

It is unlikely that another three former ministers will be nominated. They are former minister without portfolio Jay Naidoo, former agriculture minister Derek Hanekom and former transport minister Mac Maharaj.

Party leaders, however, have warned that a surprise candidate in the nomination could be ANC Women's League president Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Although Madikizela-Mandela has not attended NEC meetings since she and Mbeki had differences over the Linda Zama debacle, party insiders have warned she cannot be ruled out.

The nomination process is being overseen by an 11-person electoral commission chaired by former NEC member Barbara Masekela, with ANC stalwart Raymond Mhlaba as deputy chairperson.

Other members of the commission are Brian Bunting, Dr Essop Jassat, Josiah Jele, Henry Makgothi, Yolisa Modise, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Reg September, Gertrude Shope and Adelaide Tambo.