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Durban - ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has hit out at greedy ANC leaders who have put their personal interests before those of the people they are supposed to serve, saying they were at the centre of problems besetting the ruling party.
Speaking to the Daily News in Durban on Tuesday night after the launch of her journal “491 Days”, Madikizela-Mandela said it was time that the ANC had introspection and fixed what was wrong, saying the party had been “individualised”.
“I cannot pretend all is well… today it is all about self-enrichment. The struggle was never about individuals but today you open a newspaper there is a councillor being charged and there is a government department being investigated and an institution in trouble because it cannot account for huge amounts of government expenditure.”
“The ANC was bigger than any individual and it was up to the current crop of leaders to “revisit ourselves and find out where we have gone wrong”, she said.
Madikizela-Mandela continued: “I cannot pretend that it is all well within the ranks of the ANC; we have serious problems and those problems are saying to us let us look at what we have done.”
Problems the ANC was having were those caused by people who carried the mantle of the ANC, she said.
“It is wrong to view what individuals do as that what is being done by the ANC,” she said, adding however that leaders of the ANC were expected to be “blemishless”.
She traced some of the problems in the ANC to the party’s Polokwane conference in 2007, saying that she had warned that any contest between the then-ANC president, Thabo Mbeki, and his then deputy, Jacob Zuma, was a recipe for serious internal ructions.
Madikizela-Mandela had pleaded with Mbeki not to contest the election and told him that if he did he was going to lose.
“I said they (Mbeki and Zuma) were going to divide the ANC because whoever won was going to get rid of the followers of the other and that is precisely what happened. We lost men and women of salt… we had brilliant ministers who could have kept our ANC together. They had experience.”
Madikizela-Mandela said she had warned of Polokwane in the same way she warned the ANC in its handling of Julius Malema’s disciplinary which later led to his expulsion.
“I was quoted and even testified in the hearing within the ANC… I said: ‘If you have a child who is misbehaving, do you then close your door and tell your child to get out and see for himself out there in the world, cruel world where the child is likely to meet worse?’”
She said she felt the ANC had taken a “dangerous” step in expelling Malema.
“It’s like finding that a cub has gone and eaten the sheep next door. Instead of punishing it within the walls, you open the gate and say ‘I will let it go’. Isn’t that cub more dangerous than within the walls of a cage? I told them this is what was going to happen.”
Madikizela-Mandela said young people should be the priority of the country and that youth unemployment was the “most dangerous” problem the country was facing.
She felt the ANC had erred – because it did not have any experience in governance – by prioritising political freedom while neglecting policies that would lead to the attainment of economic freedom.
“It is not right that people are said to be much poorer than they were before the ruling party took power,” Madikizela-Mandela said.
She sounded another warning that this situation would need to be addressed because there were already signs that the poor were getting restless.
“God help us if one day the masses of this country rise against the state.
“The ramblings, the Marikanas of the day are not healthy for this country. We cannot afford to go back (to) those apartheid years.”
Speaking about her book, Madikizela-Mandela said the journal was meant to tell the history of those who were left behind to continue the Struggle for liberation after the incarceration of leaders of the liberation movement.
She said there were many who fought for the liberation of the country and therefore there was no need to “eulogise one leader as an icon”.
“It is not the Robben Island prisoners who liberated this country but it is the blood of our children… men and women who perished in the liberation war.”
While she and her family suffered a lot for their role in the liberation Struggle, she said: “I would do it a hundred times more if I had to relive those times and fight for the Struggle. None of you should ever go through that.”
Meanwhile, King Goodwill Zwelithini, who was among those who attended the launch on Tuesday night, has hit out at members of the media who have been camping outside Nelson Mandela’s house, saying the family should be afforded some privacy.
“There are things that we, blacks, have to give respect (to)… we are sick and tired seeing lots of people closer to his house. Life doesn’t belong to us. Life belongs to God. It’s God who knows how and when,” he said.
The king said it did not matter that Mandela was a figurehead – his family should be given privacy. “We as blacks are sick and tired now,” he said.
He wished the family strength, saying the media were there to instil fear.
He emphasised strong links between the Mandelas and the Zulu royal family, saying the former president had acted as an attorney to his late father, King Cyprian.
Madikizela-Mandela joked that she was the only person who had the right to call the king “my boy”.