In an unprecedented show of unity, the ANC yesterday closed ranks behind the leadership of President Jacob Zuma.
Amid ongoing speculation of serious rifts in the party’s top leadership, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, flanked by Zuma, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise and national chairperson Baleka Mbete, sent out an unambiguous message that the ANC has declared war on acts of indiscipline and anarchy since the launch of its centenary celebrations.
Yesterday’s move by the ANC’s top brass was also viewed as a direct move to quash ongoing attacks on the party leadership by its suspended youth league leader, Julius Malema.
Mantashe said the ANC had recently observed that some individuals within its ranks had continuously used the centenary celebration platforms to sow division within the organisation. The time had come to put an end to what he called “blustering” remarks made by various members and leaders of the ANC.
“We have called this special media briefing due to some incidents that have occurred in recent times,” Mantashe said.
“These individuals have chosen this centenary year to divide the ANC along narrow ethnic and racial lines as well as to insult and denigrate our leadership and principles.”
He cited as an example the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) response at an Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association statement earlier in the day.
He said acts of sowing division happened when Motlanthe was faced with people wearing T-shirts that bore his face while sharing the stage with expelled ANCYL president Julius Malema at a rally in Limpopo last week.
Motlanthe said Malema’s attack on Zuma, in which he called him a dictator, was an insult to the whole national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC.
“The dictator remark was an insult directed at all of us and it was also an unfortunate accusation against all of us. “Even if Zuma wanted to become a dictator in the NEC, he would have stood no chance,” said Motlanthe.
Responding to questions, Zuma justified his recent remark that the youth wing would have to elect another president after the process of the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals would have been concluded.
“We have a constitution in the ANC and they will have to follow its rules to elect another president,” Zuma said.
Against the backdrop of claims that they took sides in the Malema expulsion issue, Phosa and Motlanthe took turns to exonerate themselves.
Phosa said he called for an end to the public spats within the ANC at Wits University. Motlanthe said: “We don’t have this thing called succession since we are not a monarchy.”
Mantashe called on the ANCYL to be a militant and forward-looking organisation. The ANC discouraged the elevation of individuals and personalities above the organisation.
“Time has come for all members of the ANC and its colleagues to work for unity and focus on preparing for the policy conference,” Mantashe said.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said the ANC top six came together because they wanted to communicate a message of unity.
“They wanted to show that the leadership of the ANC was decisive and would deal with threats from elements with an agenda of dividing the movement.”
Independent political analyst Daniel Silke said the briefing was meant to prepare ANC members and the country for Malema’s inevitable expulsion from the party.