Johannesburg - In a week that taxpayers learnt that money was allegedly splurged on another dodgy deal involving the Guptas, the ANC has officially conceded that the party is in the clutches of the Indian family.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s diagnostic report into the party’s health shows the influence of the Gupta-family on Africa’s oldest liberation movement. The report further shows that the ANC was corrupt and that vote-buying had become the norm. The ANC is also fractured.
“The temptation is to regard such discussions as an invasion of privacy and tampering with personal relations. It is, indeed, correct to state that the Guptas can do business any time, anywhere with whomsoever (sic).
“However, their relationships with the families of prominent leaders attract the attention of the people,” Mantashe said on Friday at the ANC policy conference in Nasrec, Soweto.
“When there are benefits that accrue to families of the leadership, it is assumed to be corrupt in that the political leaders are supposed to have facilitated the accrual of benefits.”
The Gupta family, who are President Jacob Zuma’s close friends, have been linked to state capture through their controversial relationship with various cabinet ministers.
It emerged this week that Linkway Trading, a Gupta-owned company, played a role in allowing the diversion of cash earmarked for the Free State’s Vrede dairy project to reimburse most of the expenses of a Gupta wedding amounting to R30millon.
Mantashe said the matter reflects the “decline in our analytical capacity”, and that the release of the explosive Gupta emails had done a lot of harm to the movement.
“Our reaction cannot be careless but it needs to be comprehensive. Where we must own up, individual comrades should do so by providing reputable explanations, as a few have done. Blatant denial lacks credibility in the eyes of society,” he said.
On vote buying that was threatening the unity of the ANC, Mantashe said: “Money has replaced consciousness as a basis for being elected into leadership positions at all levels of the organisation. The ethical behaviour of leaders is no longer an issue, as it has been replaced by status.
“Ethics is seen as an elitist approach to politics and has developed social distance as an effect,” he said, also bemoaning the growing “trust deficit between leaders and society”.
On a day when the ANC was to come together for a show of unity and chart the way forward, the rifts were glaring when Zuma berated the ANC veterans of behaving like superiors. He accused them of behaving as if they were running the ANC.
“They see us as purely as administrators,” Zuma said, briefly departing from his prepared speech.
One of the veterans, Andrew Mlangeni, who is among Zuma critics, left the stage immediately. Ironically, Zuma had opened his speech with a call for unity. His remarks were met with murmurs of disbelief from some sections of the more than 5000-strong delegates.
The veterans retorted with a broadside of their own. Sydney Mufamadi, who speaks on behalf of them, lashed out at Zuma after his unprecedented attack, accusing him of spreading distortions and of being economical with the truth.
“President Zuma cannot be said to be truthful - even to himself,” said Mufamadi.
The party’s national executive committee (NEC) announced earlier this year that two days would be set aside at the policy conference, at the request of the stalwarts, to host what was called a “consultative conference” to debate the issues plaguing the ANC.
However, the stalwarts asserted this week that they would be boycotting the conference as they had wanted a separate gathering away from it because it dealt with two different things.
Among the veterans are the remaining members of those imprisoned after the Rivonia treason trial.
Zuma said on Friday: “The reason we have set aside seven days for this conference is because comrades who call themselves stalwarts went around organising other comrades.
“They said they want a consultative conference and took a decision on their own outside of ANC structures.”
Mufamadi said: “We don’t mind being criticised by anyone, including the president. But we do worry when the president resorts to distortions when trying to make his point.”
He stressed that the veterans were willing to work with the NEC in organising the consultative conference, and that the president was being dishonest when he said that the veterans had wanted to organise a gathering on their own, and that they had claimed to be the true leaders of the ANC.
“South Africa is in a crisis,” Mufamadi said, “and it is only the president who doesn’t seem to realise this.”
He added: “We will not allow President Zuma to fob us off by creating a crisis.
“That man - Oliver Tambo - whom he quoted at length in his speech, was trusted by our people because they never doubted his honesty,” added Mufamadi.
SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila weighed in on the matter, accusing the president of alienating some within the alliance.
“We believe in our veterans.
“Yes they are people and they have their own frailties but to dismiss them in that form is quite unfortunate.
“Protecting the veterans is the protection of our own legacy, of our history,” said Mapaila on the sidelines of the six-day party policy conference on Friday.
Speaking to the Saturday Star on Thursday, Murphy Morobe, one of the ANC veterans, explained the reasoning for their call for a separation of conferences: “The consultative conference is a conference with a very different emotion; people will fight there, people will want to scratch each other’s eyes out. You can’t do that today, and then tomorrow discuss policies nicely.”
This was the bone of contention for the president, who asserted the veterans had undermined the ANC by refusing to be part of the policy conference to discuss party matters. Morobe said the veterans wouldn’t be deterred by criticism.
Mantashe said divisions in the party could not be denied any longer. “Divisions and factions are a reality. This makes it attractive to attack individuals we perceive to be our enemies.
“It involves consciously deciding to undermine one another, including the various offices of the organisation,” he said, adding that some leaders put personal interest ahead of the organisation.
Mantashe said the ANC was concerned that despite directives that the succession debate not be mentioned, “comrades go ahead and pronounce on their preferred candidates”.
“It is not because comrades do not understand but they are deliberately undermining the organisation,” added Mantashe.
During the conference, premiers’ offices in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape caught alight, fuelling speculation of sabotage.