President Jacob Zuma launched an attack on former deputy president and ANC veteran Kgalema Motlanthe on Saturday, saying his claim that the tripartite alliance is dead shows that it is he, rather, who is politically bankrupt.
He also took a swipe at Reverent Frank Chikane, who served as director-general in the presidency during Thabo Mbeki’s term of office. Chikane has been a vocal critic of the Zuma administration.
Motlanthe said earlier this week that both the ANC’s partners in the alliance – the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) – had lost their way, and that the alliance existed only in name. In an interview with Business Day on November 2, Motlanthe lashed out at the ANC, saying it was presently “made up mostly of members and leaders devoid of the kind of political ability and consciousness required to maintain a united and nonracial society”.
Zuma used his address to ANC delegates attending the party’s provincial conference in KwaZulu-Natal to lambast his former deputy. “I read something in the newspapers where one comrade, who has been respected for a long time, said that the alliance is dead. People are exposing themselves that they are politically bankrupt. They are now sitting at home lonely,” said a visibly angry Zuma in reference to Motlanthe.
“They left the ANC on their own. They were not chased out. It is cold out there. They now are beginning to throw stones in the ANC – criticise the party, criticise Cosatu, criticise the ANC.”
‘Why do they have wisdom now?’
He said those who were now criticising the ANC under his leadership did not do so when they were still in leadership positions. “These comrades were part of the leadership. Some of them [Motlanthe] were secretary general … If the ANC is weak, they weakened it when they were in the leadership of the ANC. Why do they have wisdom now, when they are sitting out there? When they were inside, we did not see that wisdom,” said Zuma to loud applause from delegates.
Referring to Chikane, Zuma said: “Others are pastors. They must go to church and leave politics.”
While Zuma has in the past censured senior ANC leaders who criticised his administration, he has never done so publicly with Motlanthe, who helped him to unseat Mbeki during the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane in 2007.
After he defeated him in the party’s presidential race in Mangaung in 2012, Zuma extended an olive branch to Motlanthe inviting him to serve within the party’s national executive committee – an offer that Motlanthe politely declined.
Although Motlanthe accepted an offer for him to serve as head of an ANC political school, the school itself never materialised.
While the ANC initially endorsed Motlanthe’s comments on the alliance – with its spokesperson Zizi Kodwa describing him as a voice of reason who has always raised pertinent and thought provoking questions within the structures of the ANC – it is now clear Zuma was considerably less than impressed.
He said he could no longer keep quiet when former ANC leaders launch attacks against the party under his leadership.
“We are not going to keep quiet forever. If you are out of the ANC for whatever reason, keep quiet. In fact, the unwritten rule is that when you are out, don’t criticise those who are still leading. Those who come after you should not criticize who you were when you were inside,” said Zuma. “It’s a simple ABCD kind of politics. Leaders don’t understand it. People go to the newspapers to say the alliance is dead.
They must sit and keep quiet because we don’t want to speak about them. To us they are important because they were given important positions by the ANC. Why do you stand up and say the ANC is this and that. For what? And to think you are a cadre. Where did they learn politics? Let us not cross our own comrades.”
“We have kept quiet because we are disciplined,” Zuma told delegates. “But don’t push us too far. We have a job to do – to achieve prosperity in South Africa.”
“There is no one who is bigger than the ANC,” he said. “Some of these comrades [who have criticised the party] still call themselves ANC. Why are they not in the branches to raise those issues or use other means to address those issues with the leadership of the ANC? Why go to the media? They start criticising the ANC, Cosatu and the [SACP]. They are cowards – [not brave enough to] come here and argue their point of view. They are just causing an unnecessary irritation and we may not tolerate this for too long,” said Zuma.
Earlier in his speech, Zuma admonished those who believe his influence in the ANC is waning. “People say I am a liability because I am going out. They don’t know me well. I am going back to my branch. I am an ANC [member]. I understand the role of a branch. I will be here,” he said. “I did not join the ANC as president but as a volunteer. There is no member who is a liability.”
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila also criticised Motlanthe for making his comments about the alliance.
But Cosatu has since smoked a peace pipe with Motlanthe after Its leaders visited the ANC veteran at his house in Houghton this week.