Political turf war erupts within the ANC

By Linda Daniels

A political turf war has erupted over the establishment of the Progressive ANC Voters Network.

In a statement issued on Tuesday the SACP said it had noted with concern "attempts to form a so-called ANC voters network".

"The SACP is of the view that this smacks of the same attempts in the 1970s to form what was known as a Marxist Workers' Tendency of the ANC, an attempt to create different and unofficial ANC structures within the ANC and outside of the formal structures of our movement.

"This tendency has long been defeated in our movement and we should not allow such and other tendencies to rear their heads again."

The SACP said that all "genuine members of the ANC" needed to raise issues within existing structures and ANC voters had access to ANC structures to raise whatever concerns they might have.

It condemned attempts "to speak for us" outside the ANC and the tripartite alliance.

"As the ANC, we know the ANC is perfectly capable of addressing such matters, but as ANC voters we cannot allow attempts to hijack the ANC in our name," the SACP statement said.

The network has been established with the aim of stimulating public debate among ANC voters and supporters.

One of its founding members is Treatment Action Campaign leader Zackie Achmat.

The network's establishment has provoked contradictory responses from the ANC.

Western Cape ANC leader James Ngculu has predicted that it would be "stillborn".

Ngculu said no one had the right to use the ANC's name without permission.

National ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama also expressed concern about the use of the ANC's name but said the network seemed "sound".

However, Ngonyama said, a discussion between the network and the ANC should have been held first.

The network on Tuesday said it regretted the SACP's response to its formation.

"The PAVN regrets the deep intolerance demonstrated by full-time SACP party officials to a genuine public debate."

"Such a discussion will encourage more people to join ANC branches and to vote for the ANC," the network's statement said.

The network said all ANC, SACP and Cosatu supporters should welcome the opportunity to discuss the future of South Africa and the continent and that citizens who voted for the ANC had a right to join the discussion on returning the ANC to its roots of non-racialism, non-sexism and economic justice.

"SACP members and supporters who support open public debate are invited to participate in the network," said Achmat, the network's spokesperson.

Closing down discussion demonstrated a fear of debate, ideas and freedom, Achmat added.

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