Speaking at the cadres forum held in the ANC’s Lower South Coast region at Gamalakhe last night, national executive committee member Bheki Cele delivered a stinging attack on the current party leadership. File picture: Bongani Mbatha/ANA Pictures

Durban - Not only should the Guptas go back to where they came from but they should also take their friends with them, ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member Bheki Cele said on Monday in a stinging attack on President Jacob Zuma and his allies.

Speaking at the cadres forum held in the ANC’s Lower South Coast region on Monday night, Cele said the controversial family should allow the ANC to lead and “stop interfering and chowing money”.

Cele said the country had been “Guptarised” as the three Gupta brothers were screening the CVs of ministers before they are appointed.

“Everywhere you go it’s the Guptas. They are everywhere. The Guptas must go back to where they came from and they must take their friends with them because we hear they have got friends.”

This was a veiled swipe at Zuma who has repeatedly admitted that the Guptas were his friends.

Cele said all those who have stolen from the public purse should face the consequences. “I am from uMzumbe but I will never take government’s money, build uMzumbe and then expect the people of SA to like me and my organisation,” Cele said in another veiled attack on Zuma, who was found to have benefited from the public-funded upgrades to his Nkandla home.

He warned the ANC was in danger of losing the 2019 elections if it did not change its ways.

Cele, who was a vociferous supporter of Zuma before the watershed Polokwane conference in 2007, has now openly backed Deputy President Ramaphosa.

However, he told ANC members that he was not backing anyone but was only in support of an ANC tradition which allows for the deputy president to ascend to the position of president once the latter’s term has ended.

This has been a tradition since 1967 and there is no need to change it now, he said.

“We fought for that in Polokwane and won. Even now we will fight for it and we will win.”

Cele reiterated his statements that he was embarrassed to be an NEC member, saying some of the divisions tearing the ANC apart were as a result of poor leadership by the structure. He said the leadership’s failure to properly handle complaints about the 2015 provincial conference of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal had led to the party being taken to court.

Cele has been widely condemned by the Zuma-aligned leaders of the ANC for this stance.

On Sunday, NEC member Nomvula Mokonyane said Cele should resign if he was embarrassed to be part of the NEC.

Cele hit back on Monday night, saying he will not resign from the structure as he was elected by the branches.

“You might not like me but please respect me. I am not your relative and was not brought to the ANC by you. We are not friends and I don’t want to be your friend,” he said. Cele also revealed that he had held a meeting with Sihle Zikalala, the ANC provincial chairperson after he (Zikalala) had also lambasted him for his comments.

“We agreed that it should not happen again because he has my number and I have his number.”

Cele said he joined the liberation Struggle when it was risky to do so.

“We did not join it (Struggle) so we can have bodyguards or government cellphones. You can take those away, for all I care,” he said.

Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, the secretary of the ANC in the region, affirmed support for Ramaphosa, saying it was clear that this decision did not sit well with those in leadership. “We fear nothing, you can take your positions and deployment from us. As members of the ANC we will air our views openly without fear because we know this organisation.”

Mkhwanazi is part of the regional executive committee that was recently stripped of some of its powers by the provincial leadership. The national working committee, the provincial working committee of the party, descended on the region to meet with its leadership on Monday to hear its appeals against the decision.

Mkhwanazi presented the case of the regional leadership at the meeting, while Zikalala and provincial secretary Super Zuma presented the case for the province. The national leadership promised to look into the matter.

The Mercury