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ANC to discuss Fikile Mbalula and Lindiwe Sisulu Twitter battle

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Published Mar 15, 2021

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Johannesburg - The ANC is likely to place on its agenda the bitter Twitter war involving two of its senior leaders, Fikile Mbalula and Lindiwe Sisulu, who are seemingly discussing internal party disputes on social media.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe on Sunday said that the party was not preoccupied with the matter but was likely to give attention to it during its next national executive committee or national working committee meeting.

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However, political analysts Prof Susan Booysen and Dr Ralph Mathekga have described the Twitter war as worrying and demeaning conduct by senior officials of the party.

They expressed their views following a latest call by Sisulu to the ANC secretary-general, Ace Magashule, to file disciplinary charges against Mbalula for allegedly calling her a criminal.

Mbalula has denied allegations against him.

While Booysen was of the view that the war was demeaning, she said it gave the public a glimpse of what was happening internally within the party.

“It is ungracious and demeaning,” she said.

Booysen also said that the ANC had been unable to answer several questions in the public domain of people and institutions wanting to know who the party’s funders were.

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“If the ANC can’t answer these questions, people are likely to go with the flow on social media. It is difficult to say the ANC must discipline its members. It is a two-edged sword. It is adding a dimension to the ANC’s communication preserve,” Booysen said.

Mathekga was also brutal in his opinion of the two leaders, saying “they are adults who belong to the same party. They must exercise a habit of taking each other on at internal forums.”

He said the two were behaving as if they’ve “just discovered Twitter.”

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“They must engage within party dialogue forums and not humiliate each other in public,” Mathekga said.

Sisulu lodged an official complaint against Mbalula last week. The Twitter war began on March 8 when Sisulu posted a picture of a dinner party hosted by former president Jacob Zuma for all the candidates who were vying for the ANC presidential post ahead of their elective conference in December 2017.

Now, Sisulu claims that Mbalula labelled her a “criminal” - an allegation that the Transport minister denies after seeing Sisulu’s letter to Magashule circulating on social media on Sunday.

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In her complaint, Sisulu said Mbalula’s response on Twitter showed an “uncomradely attitude and was clearly sexist”.

“The last thing I expected was an irresponsible response from an NWC (ANC national working committee) comrade. I thought it was a most inappropriate way of responding to my tweet and lowered the dignity and integrity of the ANC in the public domain. It was exceedingly unseemly.

“I therefore wish to formally place on record my complaint over Comrade Fikile Mbalula’s tweet wherein he responded to a tweet trail I published on Monday, March 8, 2021 about a dinner by former president Zuma in 2017.

“In responding to a person who commented on my tweet, the impression is created that he is also responding to my tweet and calling me a “criminal,” Sisulu said.

She further said: “If indeed Cde Mbalula is labelling me a criminal, this would not only amount to crimen injuria, but it is also a violation of the ANC’s social media policy which prescribes that “any social media posting must be legal, ethical and respectful at all times”, Sisulu said.

She said Rule 40 of the ANC constitution also prohibited party members from using inflammatory languages.

In his response, Mbalula said: “The comments that you clearly mistook as a reference to you were a response to an individual, a certain Mgcini Mchunu with a Twitter handle @cuzini, who called me a political prostitute.

“My reference to criminals was obviously a reference to his tweet. The only reference to you is a question I posed, asking how much did you spend on the campaign, a question you never responded to,” Mbalula said.

He said everything else on his timeline was exchanges between him and those that responded to his tweet.

“You will know that the context of my question to you on the funding is premised on you being an outspoken proponent of the calls for the CR17 bank accounts to be investigated.

“It is therefore my considered view that I owe you no apology as the basis of your complaint is based on the opportunistic reading of my tweet and the comments on my timeline,” Mbalula said.

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