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Johannesburg - A seemingly rattled Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has warned that the ANC should not take voters for granted because it has no divine right to govern South Africa.
Speaking at Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha’s official welcome dinner in Polokwane on Friday night, the ANC national executive committee member suggested the party’s uninterrupted 20-year hegemony was faltering.
He described the 2014 general elections, which have seen new parties like Agang SA and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) challenging for power, as the “the mother of all elections”.
Gigaba, who is influential in the ANC and is close to President Jacob Zuma, cautioned that the ANC’s leadership of South Africa “was not decreed from high places”.
He reminded his audience, who included International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Joe Phaahla, that the party had no divine right to govern the country, although it had earned its stripes over many years.
“That loyalty of the masses of our people must never be taken for granted, that support must never be assumed, because at all times we must assure our people that we (deserve) the responsibility they placed on us,” said Gigaba.
His statement contradicted Zuma’s previous infamous claim that the ANC would govern “until Jesus comes”.
Zuma made the statement in 2008 at the height of ANC hegemony, and when the ruling party enjoyed a comfortable majority after the Polokwane conference.
Gigaba expressed anxiety about the “right-wing, neo-liberal faction of reaction and the right-wing populist demagogues”, which he said were plotting the ANC’s downfall.
“Opponents of our movement are watching us closely. Not only that, they are working day and night to plot our undoing,” he said.
This could be construed as a tacit admission that the DA, which hopes to capture 30 percent of the vote next year, Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang SA and the EFF were posing a serious threat to the ruling party.
“Our people must understand that to reduce the support of the ANC at this election and in the future will slow down the process of fundamental change by decades, and to recover from that slowdown will take decades more,” said Gigaba.
He called on ANC members to be prepared to “wear our yellow T-shirts and takkies” and go tell voters that the ANC was “inseparable” from them.
Amid the pre-election challenges such as a weakened ANC Youth League and infighting within alliance partner Cosatu, Gigaba reiterated that ANC unity was paramount.
“We need now to build on these foundations, to prepare for the mother of all elections, a campaign of campaigns, something our people have never seen before,” he said.
However, he warned that the unity would be forged by party programmes rather than come from the shebeens.
He confirmed that Zuma would visit Malema’s hometown of Seshego, outside Polokwane, this week to talk about the polls – seen as an attempt to thwart the EFF’s apparent growing support in the area.
Turning his focus to Mathabatha’s leadership and Limpopo politics in general, Gigaba warned the premier against using his position to benefit family and friends.
“These people who are gathered here don’t expect you to elevate your interests and those of your family and friends above the interest of the ANC,” he said.
He added that while the ANC and ANCYL’s support for Mathabatha was “unconditional”, they would criticise him “constructively and severely at times” if he deviated from his mandate.