Johannesburg - Enoch Godongwana has become the latest high-ranking ANC official to break ranks with the ruling party over President Jacob Zuma’s administration and his style of leadership.
On Thursday, Godongwana criticised Zuma and called on the masses to march against the “nonsensical” government.
The chairman of the ANC economic transformation committee addressed the political school of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union in Boksburg on Thursday, when ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe failed to attend.
Taking to the podium, the former deputy minister of economic development asked if there were journalists in the room, as some of the things he would be saying were “career-limiting”.
Immediately thereafter, Godongwana fired the first salvo, saying a comrade had once told him that it was abhorrent for ANC cadres to march against its government, to which he asked: “Xa ibheda why singenoyimatshela? (If it’s bad why can’t we march against it?)
“We’ve got to go back to the streets and march against our government when it’s making nonsense, but march in support of our government when it’s doing good things.”
In order for the radical economic transition to work, he said, a functioning state free from corporate “capture” was needed.
“If we don’t have a functioning state, comrades, konakele (things will be bad). We’ve got to get our ethics right.”
There have been growing concerns within the ANC-led tripartite alliance about the controversial Gupta family’s influence on government decisions and how they allegedly use their close proximity to Zuma to get business from the state.
Godongwana said while some democratic gains had been made since democracy 22 years ago, the government was scoring some spectacular own goals.
“Through our own goals we are undermining the process of democratic consolidations.”
Zuma came under intense pressure late last year to change his decision to appoint little-known backbencher MP Des van Rooyen as finance minister following the unceremonious axing of Nhlanhla Nene, a move that wiped billions of rand off the economy.
The president’s decision was met with strong criticism from ANC veteran and former minister of health and of public enterprises Barbara Hogan, who characterised Zuma as a man who had crossed the line and needed to be held to account.
Godongwana, who also served as Hogan’s deputy in the Public Enterprises Department, also touched on the controversial Taxation Laws Amendment Act, saying the ruling party was never consulted on the matter.
“The ANC is as blank as you (are). We were never consulted on our side,” he said, to mumblings of disapproval from the delegates. “That’s why I said I don’t need those (TV) cameras,” he quipped.
The act meant that people who retire or resign would be able to withdraw only a third of their retirement savings, compelling them to put the rest in an annuity. And following an outcry from unions, the cabinet took a decision to postpone the implementation of the act for two years.
“ANC policies are intact. Our challenge is to get a government that’s functioning to make sure those policies are carried through,” said Godongwana.
On Thursday night, ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa refused to comment, saying he had not personally heard Godongwana’s comments.
However, his colleague Khusela Sangoni said Godongwana’s remarks were “not contrary to the positions of the ANC”.
“We believe in civic activism, and that people should be able to rise up on any particular issue because we are a caring government,” she said, adding that the ruling party had been very vocal on state capture and corruption allegations.