During a wide-ranging interview with Clement Manyathela from EWN last week, ANC presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu spoke with rare candidness about her campaign and the current state of her party.
Sisulu revealed how taxing the campaign has been on her physically and expressed concern about disunity in the governing party and some of the dirty tricks that have been employed as it gears up for an elective conference.
A day before she sat down with Manyathela, Dr. Makhosi Khoza, an outspoken critic of President Jacob Zuma, resigned as a Member of Parliament for the ANC.
Few were surprised as this had been a long time coming and Khoza had no shortage of reasons for stepping down.
She lamented what she describes as "kleptocracy" in the party and said the current ANC is "alien to her".
Sisulu used the interview to express her sadness at Khoza's resignation and how she wishes she had reached out to her and supported her. She applauded Khoza's bravery and in a subsequent interview pledged to take over where she had left off.
If I did not watch the interview myself I would have dismissed it as fake news because there is no way Sisulu could seriously imagine herself as the ANC's next firebrand, right? Well she is dead serious.
Hot on the heels of this interview, Sisulu tried to extend her momentum by launching a scathing attack on her boss, President Zuma.
Various media outlets quoted her questioning why the ANC has never charged Zuma for bringing the party into disrepute and vowing to hold him accountable.
Naturally, Sisulu expected this declaration to help her fill the void that Khoza has left in the party. Her attempt backfired spectacularly.
As she campaigns to replace Zuma, it is not surprising that Sisulu will seek to position herself as his antithesis in hopes of swinging more ANC delegate votes in her favour.
However, there is a slight problem. While she may be speaking to her party faithful, Sisulu undermines the intelligence of millions of South Africans.
While members of her party may be willing to give her a pass the rest of us won't be as kind.
Lindiwe Sisulu and all the other current presidential candidates are responsible for Jacob Zuma and for this they should not be forgiven.
How dare she ask why Zuma hasn't been charged when she is a member of the ANC's national executive committee? We should be demanding answers from her.
But perhaps the most damaging action is how she and the other candidates blindly supported Zuma at the elective conference held in Polokwane in 2007.
As with Donald Trump in the United States, Zuma did everything he could to demonstrate why he was unsuitable for the Presidency. Facing 783 charges of fraud and corruption and coming from a rape trial should have dented his prospects but instead the likes of Sisulu defended him with unmatched passion.
She went on to tell Manyathela that the ANC has great mechanisms in place to assist its members when choosing leaders.
She made reference to 'The Eye of a Needle' document which she says provides a guide on what kind of leaders the ANC should look for. She listed traits like having impeccable credentials and said ultimately members should be able to look at a candidate and feel that the party is safe in that person's hands.
On that alone, she should not have supported Zuma at the Polokwane and Mangaung conferences. The least she can do now as a means of atoning is to acknowledge how complicit she has been before trying to present herself as the people's heroine.
Sisulu is of course not the first ANC member to have a sudden change of heart about the president. From Pravin Gordhan to Trevor Manuel, we have watched as they each express a lack of confidence in Zuma's leadership.
I'm sorry, but we should not give any of them medals for this.
When revelations about the millions of rand spent on Zuma's Nkandla homestead came out for example, each of these people defended him and demonised the rest of us for being critical.
The same people who now hope to be president labelled us clever blacks when we spoke out and tried to make us feel unpatriotic for being black and opinionated.
One after the other, they took turns to sing his praises during parliamentary challenges to his leadership. We remember this.
If Lindiwe Sisulu is serious about dressing herself in Khoza's cloaks then she needs to tell us exactly what this means.
Will she resign from Cabinet as a show of discontentment? Like Khoza, will she offer to help the party draw up Zuma's charge sheet?
We have every right to demand answers from her and the other candidates because up until now they have placed their own interests ahead of ours. It's time we remind them that we have not forgotten.
- Mondli Zondo (@MoZondo) is a columnist and Mandela Washington Fellow. He writes in his personal capacity.
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