ANC Struggle stalwart and former Cope MP Mluleki George. | Mxolisi Madela African News Agency (ANA)
ANC Struggle stalwart and former Cope MP Mluleki George. | Mxolisi Madela African News Agency (ANA)

Former Thabo Mbeki loyalist, Mluleki George, dies of Covid complications

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 6, 2021

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MLULEKI George, the former Thabo Mbeki loyalist who fervently argued for the former ANC president to stand for re-election against Jacob Zuma in Polokwane in 2007 even though the odds were clearly against him, has died aged 72.

His death was confirmed by his former political party, Cope, yesterday. He apparently died of Covid-19 complications.

The party’s spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, said the country has lost another patriot who had loved his country.

“Comrade Mluleki George was in the forefront of dismantling apartheid in sports, a fearless fighter. He was a founder member of the United Democratic Front in (1983). He was elected to represent the ANC in Parliament after the first democratic elections. He represented his people with distinction,” Bloem said.

George was a Struggle stalwart who became a controversial figure.

At the height of his power and influence, while he was an ANC member, Mbeki appointed him as deputy defence minister (2004-2008). Mosiuoa Lekota was then minister of defence.

George single-handled drove the Mbeki campaign at Polokwane in 2007. Mbeki was up against a popular but graft-tainted Zuma who went on to crush his (Mbeki’s) ambition of a third term as ANC president.

During the Polokwane conference, George repeatedly told the media, which was largely sympathetic to Mbeki, that victory was certain as party branches which had earlier overwhelmingly nominated Zuma that they were going to change their minds in the ballot box and vote for Mbeki.

The two opposing ANC (Zuma and Mbeki) camps held rallies and when it became clear that Zuma had an upper hand, George is quoted in a December, 17, 2007, article penned by the Mail & Guardian saying that not all their supporters attended.

“There were comrades who were not there because they were with the Zuma group because they felt intimidated.”

The paper reported later that George had confidently told delegates that victory was certain for Mbeki.

Some IOL reports of that time said George had even said the branches were too sophisticated to elect a tainted figure like Zuma to lead a glorious movement like the ANC.

In the end, his wish was never granted as Mbeki was defeated.

In September 2008 the ANC recalled Mbeki as state president and that angered George, Lekota and former Gauteng premier Mbazima Shilowa, who then left the ruling party to form Cope.

They were followed by several members of Mbeki’s cabinet who had resigned en masse in protest over the destabilising recall.

However, a power struggle between Lekota and Shilowa ensued and George had to take sides. Eventually, he sided with Lekota who is still leading the fading party up to this day.

Cope said it was proud George had led a breakaway from the ANC. Expressing its condolences, it said Zuma had not been good for the ruling party and the country.

“Comrade George was very vocal at the Polokwane Conference, warning delegates that the ANC is taking a wrong direction and with Zuma as the leader will not only destroy the ANC but the entire country. But the delegates did not want to listen and Zuma was elected,” the party said.

Political Bureau

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