Police Minister Bheki Cele has urged ANC supporters to bury the idea of former president Jacob Zuma, urging them to “let him go”, after he announced in December he would be voting against the “ANC of Ramaphosa” and voting for the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe party.
Cele was speaking at a lecture hosted by the African National Congress in eThekwini at the weekend.
The ANC KZN provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo reiterated ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula and chairperson Gwede Mantashe's stance, that Zuma had “expelled himself”. The ANC has indicated it would only formally deal with Zuma after the elections.
Cele referred to his lecture as the “funeral of Zuma” and has challenged the former president to air the secrets he has been threatening to reveal for years.
Cele said they would respond to them and also described Zuma as an “intellectual dwarf”, saying people like Robert Sobukwe had also left the ANC.
“He has been in the Top 6 since 1991. Now when it's time for others to lead it can't happen.
“No one is a leader by right, you are a leader because people elect you, nobody owns the ANC.
“This ANC is owned by thousands of people, alive and dead. Comrades, let him go, bury him,” he said.
Other ANC NEC members to criticise Zuma this weekend included former KZN Premiers Sbu Ndebele, Senzo Mchunu and Sihle Zikalala, who said the former president was trying to divide the party.
“When you divide the ANC, yet you call yourself a member of the ANC ... you are going against the founding principles of the ANC.
“You cannot one day say there is something called the ANC of Ramaphosa. We are told he joined the ANC at age 16, yet all these years he has never been able to grasp the principles on which the ANC was founded,” said Mchunu, adding that Zuma was motivated by hatred for Ramaphosa, the Mercury reported.
Recalling a visit he made to Nkandla in February 2021, where he met with Zuma, Cele finally revealed some of the contents of the meeting.
The Democratic Alliance said at the time that it was highly irregular and unprecedented for a police minister to have ‘tea parties’ with someone who should be locked up for being in contempt of court.
The DA calls on Bheki Cele to clarify in which capacity he met with Jacob Zuma.— Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) February 19, 2021
It's highly irregular and unprecedented for a Police Minister to have ‘tea parties’ with someone who should be locked up for being in contempt of court. - @Natasha9Mazzone https://t.co/cuVVWAmiiz
Cele recalled his “Nkandla tea visit” with Zuma - which had been sanctioned by the late deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte.
He said the meeting lasted three and a half hours.
“I said to him the ANC gave you a special dispensation, you were ANC National and KZN chairperson, you are the only person who has been allowed to do that - it has never happened, because the ANC wanted you to deal with violence.
“And you did... and we are grateful for that,” said Cele, who recalled attending at least 47 funerals every weekend that year due to the political violence between the ANC and the IFP.
He credited Zuma for contributing in ending the violence.
“I said you see what you are now doing, will cause bloodshed in KZN. That was before July 2021,” Cele emphasised.
“He said ‘mfanakithi (my brother), I don't care what happens’.
“So to me, I am not shocked (by his actions), because we are dealing with someone who doesn't care. Because if it is not me (who leads), it can't be anyone, you can't have politicians like that,” said Cele.
The meeting between Cele and Zuma at the time came amid an escalating stand-off between Zuma and the Zondo Commission, which was probing allegations of state capture between 2009 and 2018 - the period when Zuma was the country’s president.
Following Zuma’s arrest for being in contempt of court in July 2021, riots, looting and violent destruction followed in parts of KZN and Gauteng mainly.
Over 354 people died and damage to the tune of R50 billion was caused as buildings and property were torched during the unprecedented riots.
“Why must the ANC die just so long as I stand and contest leadership when the ANC has done so much for me, when I have been the member of the ANC Top 6 for all my life, I have been deputy secretary general, national chairperson, deputy president and president, what more do you want?” Cele said on Saturday, in a salvo aimed at Zuma.
Cele said he was scared of the threat of violence and called on ANC supporters to “refuse to be provoked”.
“We are still taking care of him, he has Special Forces looking after him.
“He has the biggest convoy of any ex-president,” said Cele.
As a parting shot to ANC supporters, he urged them to “protect the ANC and not individuals”.
“Nobody is going to go to the grave with the ANC. Comrades, let him go,” said Cele.