Johannesburg - ANC presidential hopeful Baleka Mbete on Friday reached out to the party’s alliance partners and called for strained relationships to be "nursed".
"Tempers must cool down. The alliance is very important. We are the ones who must build it and we must nurse it," she told about 200 members of the ANC’s Dorothy Nyembe branch, most of them pensioners, in Soweto.
A divided alliance would not gain the trust of voters in the 2019 general elections and, if they could not unite, DA leader Mmusi Maimane could become the country’s next president, she warned.
Mbete, who is the ANC chairperson and National Assembly speaker, was on her presidential campaign trail. Ordinary ANC members and some local leaders have endorsed Mbete to replace President Jacob Zuma at the party’s elective conference in December.
Pensioners and some young people present confronted her with the myriad problems they faced, including service delivery.
Others wanted her to explain divisions in the ANC following revelations about state capture by the Gupta family and white monopoly capital. While a few praised her leadership, others warned that they would not vote for the ANC if it continued to ignore their plight.
"There is nothing we are fighting about," Mbete replied.
"Monopoly capital is a universal thing. It’s just that in South Africa, monopoly capital is white, so it’s semantics. People just want to hear their own voices and compete about speaking English."
'We must sit down and talk'
Relations within the ANC-led alliance are at an all-time-low. Cosatu, the SACP, and Sanco have all called on Zuma to step down and barred him from attending their events. Cosatu and some SACP leaders are backing Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take over as ANC leader.
Mbete said they were concerned that the SACP was considering contesting the 2019 general elections by itself.
"We don’t think it is wise. We must sit down and talk, we can resolve the problems. We sat with FW De Klerk, why can’t we fix each other to be strong in 2019?"
Local ANC leader Morithi Matlou said if the ANC Women’s League wanted a woman president, Mbete was the only choice. He praised Mbete for her two terms as the ANC’s first female chairperson, and for 40 years of service to the organisation.
Some of the pensioners wore ANCWL uniforms, despite the league’s leadership having endorsed NEC member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to become ANC president.
Other presidential contenders include Ramaphosa, Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, and former ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa.