By Pinky Khoabane
Paul Mashatile arriving at a SaveSA event
The much media hype that the ANC veterans would ask President Jacob Zuma to step down following a meeting with him and the Top Six in November last year, fell completely flat leaving supporters of regime change agents reeling in shock.
Even those who support the president still wondered what could have transpired in a meeting which the veterans entered with such gusto that the only media narrative served to the public was that they would emerge having convinced Zuma to exit for the sake of the ANC and the country.
What happened, rumour has it, is that the president, sitting in front of his comrades reminded them that the ANC was not founded and run on rumours.
He apparently told the veterans that many in the ANC had rumours about them which had not been entertained in the ANC.
He supposedly explained that the state capture report had been nothing but rumours published in newspapers.
Frank Chikane – ANC veteran/stalwart
With that he looked at one of the veterans and whipped out a rumour about his ascendancy to the UDF leadership and reminded him that such rumours were known and had never been acted upon or used against him.
To add drama, the story goes, the president then asked everyone in the room if they wanted him to continue. Most were happy he didn’t continue because in truth there are many rumours that run in the ANC and even those whose names may not have come up on that day weren’t interested to hear anymore.
The story may well be just rumour but something happened in that meeting that took the wind out of the veterans’ sails. They emerged saying they never asked for the president to leave office but pronounced their willingness to work within the ANC to restore its glory.
And so instead of calls for regime change we got to hear that there were factions even within the concerned veterans. The group that had gone to the meeting was supposedly not the one that was calling for regime change. The one that met Zuma was never going to ask for him to step down, we were told.
With that battle taken care of, the ANC seemed to have, for a few days at least, come to some level of unity. With those leading the regime change campaign feeling a little vulnerable, the entire campaign to recall the president from within seemed thwarted. And then there was the festive season and plans for the 105th anniversary celebrations took centre stage.
Under the theme Unity in Action, the ANC has hit the New Year running with a string of events and mini rallies to mobilise the ANC faithful to attend the celebrations at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Gauteng.
The big question however is whether the unity which the ANC so desperately needs will hold until at the least, the elective conference in December.
Gauteng under the chairmanship of Paul Mashatile is the only province which defied the NEC’s call to support President Jacob Zuma after the Concourt ruling on Nkandla but he also personally joined forces with regime change agents, SaveSA in a protest action held in Pretoria at the beginning of November last year.
If the story about what transpired in the meeting between the ANC top six and the veterans isnt true, the bit about rumours not being used against members of the ANC is certainly true. Mashatile has for many years been linked to what was referred to as the Alex Mafia – a group said to have ANC links and which was benefiting from all the government deals in the province. These allegations have never been proven but they persist and have occupied substantial newspaper column space.
2016 saw a litany of formations from within the ANC calling for the axe to fall on Zuma. The campaign started early last year; by April Masupatsela a Ntate Sisulu – a group of children of ANC exiles – were calling on the president to leave office. It’s not clear whether the group still exists and attempts to get a response from its leader, Shaka Sisulu came to nought.
By mid-year there were voices from individuals described as “stalwarts” or “veterans”, (descriptions were sometimes used interchangeably on the same person) who later formed themselves into a civil-society group, SaveSA. Among them are BEE beneficiaries of former President Thabo Mbeki’s era who are said to be highly irritated by Zuma’s leadership; an irritation sparked largely by his axing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and the resultant loss of money when the rand plummeted during that time.
This is a group of people whose battle is not so much about the restoration of the soul of the ANC but more about their personal economic self-preservation. Sipho Pityana, Chairman of Anglo American Ashanti, for example, whose campaign was launched from the funeral of Stofile Makhenkesi no less, represents the Oppenheimer legacy – one of the most brutal dynasties on the African, not only in South Africa but across the continent. Their industry and wealth has been propped-up by the blood of Africans through land theft, exploitation, violence and fuelling of wars. The question is what Pityana has done for these Africans, hundreds of thousands of them, killed underground, poisoned and not paid by his masters? As the messiah concerned about the direction the ANC is taking, surely he must also have grave concern for his fellow Africans. He couldnt support miners in their quest for a minimum wage of R12500 per month. He and his fellow campaigners have been modelled as the saviours of SA, a noble cause if it wasn’t so one-sided and smirked of double standards and sheer hypocrisy.
By year-end even the ANC Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, and several ministers had called for the president’s resignation. When their campaign failed, they didn’t do the honourable thing and resign. Who wants to be led by a dishonourable man and why? This bunch seemingly don’t mind but the real answer to why they remain within may lie in those skeletons in their cupboards. There is that adage about keeping your enemies closer, perhaps like the president who hasnt fired his detractors, the big game going forward is keeping enemies closer.