ANC national executive committee member and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has accused some party leaders who have publicly criticised President Jacob Zuma of attempting to cause a rupture in the party.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian this week, Mbalula also accused former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas of being partly to blame for a decision by ratings agency S&P Global to downgrade South Africa to sub-investment grade.
“Society has all believed in Pravin Gordhan because Pravin Gordhan has projected himself as an individual who’s first got the national interest at heart and he wants South Africa to flourish,” Mbalula said.
“But the way they have been going on with Mcebisi [Jonas] with their Hollywood style of addressing meetings, mobilising society … you can equally say that the decision by these ratings agencies among others is informed by that.”
On Saturday last week, Gordhan spoke at the memorial service of liberation hero Ahmed Kathrada in Johannesburg, where he called for mass mobilisation against the current challenges facing South Africa’s leadership.
His calls have been interpreted by Mbalula as an effort to undermine new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s work of reassuring the markets of South Africa’s stability.
“What we have seen is a mobilisation by those who were appointed in those positions to basically undermine that work [of reassuring the markets]. And these are members of the ANC, members of the national executive committee.”
Depsite Mbalula’s belief that Gordhan and Jonas partly caused the downgrade, Gigaba revealed in a press briefing this week that S&P had already made a decision by Friday morning – before Gordhan made his calls for mass mobilisation.
The agency said its decision was informed by last week’s Cabinet reshuffle last week which it believed would cause policy uncertainty.
Zuma’s supporters including the ANC’s youth and women’s leagues have denounced S&P’s actions, with the women’s league calling for urgency on plans to establish a Brics ratings agency.
The reshuffle has not only caused concern among ratings agencies but also among senior ANC leaders such as treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and secretary general Gwede Mantashe, all of whom distanced themselves from the president’s actions. In what appeared to be a co-ordinated criticism last week, all three leaders accused Zuma of imposing a ready-made list of changes to the ANC’s top six instead of consulting them as he should have.
The reshuffle has also seen alliance partners Cosatu and SACP as well as the ANC’s integrity commission all calling on the president to step down.
Mbalula has sprung to Zuma’s defence, accusing the integrity commission of allowing itself to be used in a plot to overthrow the president. He expressed concern that those who were calling for Zuma to step down were jeopardising unity within the party.
“What these leaders want for us to do now is to basically not only bring about a rupture but disrupt the ANC. And they say that President Zuma must be recalled. And thereafter what do they want?” he said.
“They know we’ve got a conference, a highly contested conference. Whose gonna take over from president Zuma [now]? It’s to further divide the ANC. So let the conference settle that score, in relation to leadership.”
Despite what appeared to be the start of an internal revolt against Zuma shortly after his Cabinet reshuffle, the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) this week called to order officials who had publicly criticised the president. In a statement released after a two-day meeting, the NWC agreed that the “public dissonance was a mistake that should not be committed again”.
For Mbalula, the public disagreement with the president represents an uncharacteristic deviation from the party’s principles of discipline and order.
“The mobilisation that is out there and that is generated in society comes from the very same leaders of the ANC whom we have looked up to for years and they have given us education about issues of discipline and conduct, but they’ve basically acted uncharacteristically,” he said.
“I don’t know what to even say to them about their behaviour because these are the people that we have grown up respecting. They have given us politics. And some of us have not deviated from those politics.”