Niehaus’ RET movement woos ANC members

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Controversial former ANC member Carl Niehaus.
Controversial former ANC member Carl Niehaus.
Jabulani Langa


While the newly established Radical Economic Transformation Movement (Retmo), founded by controversial former ANC member Carl Niehaus, remains a civil society outfit, its foot soldiers have indicated that it is not ruling out contesting next year’s elections.

This comes as a number of former ANC leaders have thrown their weight behind Retmo, despite the party warning its members against associating with the outfit.

Niehaus, who is Retmo’s chairperson, recently outlined a 10-point plan that the organisation would champion, including the expropriation of land without compensation, reversing the privatisation of state-owned enterprises and strengthening of border policing to block undocumented migrants from entering South Africa.

READ: Niehaus fired, told to fetch belongings from Luthuli House

City Press has reliably learnt that, while Niehaus, who resigned from the ANC after being expelled by its national disciplinary committee, remains the face of Retmo, other former ANC leaders were instrumental in the establishment of the organisation, including former ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and former national executive committee member Tony Yengeni.

 Ace Magashule
Ace Magashule.

The new organisation hopes to create a home for those who remain opposed to the current ANC leadership under Cyril Ramaphosa, which is expected to tighten its grip on power after he convincingly secured a second term in December.

Nkosentsha Shezi, chairperson of the radical economic transformation faction within the ANC and a strong ally of former president Jacob Zuma and Magashule, said that, while Retmo was yet to formally outline its plans regarding next year’s elections and unveil those who were behind its emergence from the governing party, it was counting on ANC structures for support.

Shezi said: 

Many people who have been showing solidarity to Zuma and Magashule know that they have a space in Retmo to continue the struggle after what happened at the Nasrec elective conference.

He slammed the warning issued by KwaZulu-Natal ANC secretary Bheki Mtolo that those associated with Retmo would face disciplinary action by the party.

KZN ANC secretary Bheki Mtolo.

“The ANC fears that we will reduce its support significantly, should we go ahead and register with the IEC [Electoral Commission of SA] and contest next year, but we have not yet taken that decision and that means members should be allowed to associate with Retmo. Many of us are still members of the ANC in good standing,” Shezi said.

He added that Magashule and other leaders had to come out and openly show their backing for Retmo, as there was clear discontent with Ramaphosa’s leadership by some within the party over its failure to implement policies that benefit the poor.

READ: Mondli Makhanya | The ANC's casualties of war

KwaZulu-Natal is one of the ANC structures that openly campaigned against Ramaphosa’s second term, but the province has since instructed its structures as well as its rank and file to rally behind the president and the new leadership, following his landslide victory against former health minister Zweli Mkhize for party president.

Lopang Rothman, former secretary in the Kenneth Kaunda region in North West, said the ANC had no basis for taking action against members who chose to associate with Retmo.

“It is not a political party yet. There are many NGOs that are out there and many people have been associating with them, and there has never been action against them.

Rothman said: 

I think if there is action taken against us or any person who associates with Retmo, it should be when there is a clear decision that it is going to be a political party that contests against the ANC.

Several ANC insiders sympathetic to Niehaus’ outfit said that, while Retmo would not fare well at the voting booth next year, it could dent the ANC’s electoral prospects where the party hopes to retain majority support.

This would hopefully create space for disgruntled members to be invited to the negotiating table, they said.

Meanwhile, Zuma was last week elected the new KwaZulu-Natal chairperson of the SA National Civic Organisation, although there is now a dispute about the legitimacy of the structure that elected him.

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