Durban - ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe has demanded disciplinary action against KwaZulu-Natal party delegates who heckled and prevented him from addressing the conference of the party’s biggest province.
Mantashe at the weekend became the second ANC official to face the unhappiness of former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters, who, while banging tables, sang “Wenzeni uZuma” (What has Zuma done?), preventing him from addressing the gathering.
In April, Zuma backers sang the song in the presence of President Cyril Ramaphosa when he was in the province to listen to branches on preparations for the conference. Mantashe had been scheduled to open the conference, but delegates fuming over a court decision that interdicted the elective gathering demanded the event be cancelled.
ANC provincial task team co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala nevertheless called Mantashe to the podium to speak, but delegates would have none of it. Zikalala said the incident was an embarrassment and apologised to Mantashe, officials and the national executive committee (NEC) on behalf of the delegates.
But Mantashe on Sunday told Independent Media there had to be action against those who prevented him from speaking. “The issue is not the apology but correcting this behaviour. The province must discipline members who misbehaved. It is that simple, ANC members must behave like members of the ANC,” he said.
Mantashe said the conference was factional because certain leaders were prevented from speaking while others, such as Zikalala, were allowed. “That was a factional-organised and deliberate disruption, the fact that they (also) stopped Mike Mabuyakhulu from speaking, (but) allowed Sihle to speak and stopped me,” he said.
Mabuyakhulu, who is the convener of the provincial task team, and NEC members Bheki Cele and Jackson Mthembu were also heckled. The three of them were aligned to Ramaphosa’s bid for the presidency, while the unhappy members and Zikalala supported Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Mantashe, who had also backed Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma, said he would not be intimidated by the incident. “I don’t have a no-go area in the ANC. Should the organisation deploy me to KZN I will go to KZN,” he said.
On Friday, Zuma supporters put on a show of force outside the Durban High Court when the former president appeared on charges of corruption. Meanwhile, a speech by ANC North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, during which he said Zuma was “still our president”, caused a fallout in the platinum province, with the SACP abandoning a meeting with the ANC and Cosatu at the weekend.
Eastern Cape ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukaitobi expressed shock at the heckling of Mantashe, saying that all party leaders should be respected by all structures.
“When they are deployed to speak at those gatherings, and they are not allowed to speak, it is not the democratic principle of the ANC. You will not have expected that a meeting with credentials to descend to that level,” said Ngcukaitobi.
He said the ANC meeting should have been conducted in an orderly fashion. “The expectation is that leaders of the ANC as leaders of the society are disciplined people, they would therefore hold their meetings in a dignified, comradely and orderly manner.
“There is not a way that we can think otherwise about a gathering of the ANC. Remember that we are not only a political organisation but we are a governing party. We should conduct ourselves with the morals and principles of the glorious organisation which is the ANC,” Ngcukaitobi said.
When contacted on whether action would be taken against those who heckled Mantashe, ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “The relevant structure and the deployees should be accorded the space to bring forward their report for proper processing.”
Zikalala and Mabuyakhulu were in a day-long meeting and could not be reached for comment. Political analyst Protas Madlala said the NEC should remove Zikalala from KZN and replace him with someone neutral to lead the party to unity.
“It can be someone from national like Nathi Mthethwa or Jeff Radebe because they are not seen featuring in these (Ramaphosa/Zuma) camps.” He added that the situation in the ANC was giving opposition parties the opportunity to improve their performance during next year’s general elections.
“Although the DA is also facing its own challenges, the ANC is helping the opposition,” said Madlala. He likened Zikalala’s apology to Mantashe to the one that eThekwini regional chairperson Zandile Gumede made when pro-Zuma branch leaders sang in the presence of Ramaphosa.