ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini defended President Jacob Zuma with renewed vigour this week, warning that the dangers of allowing anyone to destroy him could end up destroying the ANC itself.
Zuma has been under pressure after Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas confirmed that he was promised the post of finance minister by the Gupta family, who are friends with the president.
Speaking to City Press from New York on Friday, Dlamini, who is also the minister of social development, said: “Do we always question the things that people say about others? We are not children and should not be treated like children. Some things are written on the wall.
“The president of the ANC is the face of the ANC and, therefore, if you allow people to destroy the president, the following day we will wake up without an organisation. We must be very careful.”
But Dlamini said this did not mean that Jonas was wrong to speak out about being offered former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s position before Nene was removed, but that this was an internal matter for the ANC to deal with.
Others who have said they were approached by the Guptas include former GCIS spokesperson Themba Maseko and former parliamentary caucus leader Vytjie Mentor.
“There are people who raised this before, but inside the ANC,” she said, alluding to how Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula allegedly complained to the national executive committee (NEC) that he was told about his appointment by the Guptas.
“No one will be given special treatment because of the interest of others.”
Dlamini, a staunch Zuma supporter, said “issues” must be handled with great care and respect.
“Respecting the president means respecting the office. These are simple things we need to understand. These things happen throughout the world. We are not a country on an island.”
Asked about her views on state capture, Dlamini said: “I don’t know what that means. There is so much jargon that is being introduced.”
Dlamini also refused to directly respond to a question about whether there is a plot against Zuma, but spoke in general terms and said that enemies of democracy always pick on ANC presidents.
Dlamini refused to clarify her previous comments that all NEC members had skeletons in the closet.
She insisted that people had to follow internal processes and not air the ANC’s dirty laundry.
She said what she raised at the NEC meeting was based on what she learnt from the ANC and not because she was opportunistic or trying to be popular.
On being labelled as ill-disciplined by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Dlamini said it was up to him how he characterised her.
“The ANC has taken decisions in the NEC ... How someone characterised Bathabile depends on that person.”
Dlamini also came to Zuma’s defence after calls that he apologise for comments some view as perpetuating patriarchy – he said that modern women were too quick to say they were being harassed when men were innocently complimenting them.