Thabo Mbeki says Magashule and Zuma are a cautionary tale for the ANC

Former ANC and state president Thabo Mbeki took a swipe at his successor Jacob Zuma and suspended secretary general Ace Magashule during the extended provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting in the Eastern Cape on Monday. 

During his closing address, Mbeki said he did not campaign for the governing party between 2009 and 2016 — although he voted for it — because it had communicated a “false” message of “We have a good story to tell.” 

The period Mbeki referred to fell during Zuma’s tenure as president. 

“I couldn’t imagine myself going around saying ‘We have got a good story to tell’ because we didn’t; we had no good story to tell, because things were going wrong,” Mbeki said.

“The reason it was possible to say in 2019 that this time I will speak out openly to say ‘Let’s vote ANC’ was because of what the manifesto said. It did not say we had a good story to tell; it said we had made mistakes.”  

He said it was during president Cyril Ramaphosa’s tenure that it seemed the ANC was telling the truth, and this was why he returned to campaigning. 

Mbeki stepped aside as state president in 2008 after he was asked to resign by the ANC. Zuma was elected president the following year. 

The relationship between the two men soured when Mbeki suspended Zuma from his cabinet after it emerged that he was implicated in the 1999 arms deal

Zuma stepped aside on 14 April 2018, after he was asked to do so by the governing party. 

Ramaphosa, then deputy president, replaced Zuma as state president. 

Continuing with his address on Monday, Mbeki criticised Magashule for openly defying the ANC by not agreeing to step aside, as per the step-aside resolution by the national executive committee (NEC). 

Speaking about the renewal of the governing party, Mbeki said the ANC was wrong to move away from its Mafikeng conference resolution of separating party and state. 

He said it was wrong for ANC provincial chairs to assume the position of premier, adding that these positions must be separate. 

Mbeki used the example of Magashule, who was Free State ANC chairperson during his administration.

“It seemed to us that we could not appoint him as premier,” Mbeki said. “The business of combining these two processes is wrong.” 

Mbeki said the ANC needed to return to the Mafikeng discussion document to bring the party back to what it was and what it ought to be. 

He added that a trusted leader of the ANC must be a loyal servant of the people and an agent for change. 

“When you say that you are this servant of the people, this agent for change — practically how does it manifest itself, in the way in which the government operates and in the way in which individuals operate? You get people at national level who openly defy the decision of the NEC, even taking the ANC to court to challenge the NEC. What is that?” Mbeki said.

“The state capture reminds us members of the ANC every day about what has gone wrong. Every day ANC members are being [hauled before the commission, being told to] answer this.  There is no way you can avoid the challenge of this renewal. It is facing us daily.” 

Magashule has started court action to have his temporary suspension from his position halted, claiming that he is the victim of a purge of supporters of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the 2017 elective conference, which saw Ramaphosa elected as ANC president.

Eastern Cape ANC chairperson Oscar Mabuyane said at the PEC meeting that party leaders needed to be accountable. “We have to be ready to die for something that is going to live, rather than to live for something that is going to die,” he said. 

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