On Saturday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe stopped short of accusing President Jacob Zuma of insulting the people who were marching across the country and demanding his resignation.
And SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande took off the gloves in warning Zuma not to expect the SACP to close ranks when he did not consult on his decision to axe Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.
Zuma, meanwhile, used a commemoration event in KwaZulu-Natal to hit out at critics, some of whom he said he used to trust.
The war of words is the latest episode in the fight for the control of the ANC in the run-up to its elective conference in December.
Mantashe told the crowd gathered for a commemoration talk on slain SACP leader Chris Hani in Matlosana in the North West that the electorate could not be undermined.
“Our problem is when we make a mistake we go into denial mode. We go on to platforms and say ‘yes, there is a mistake, and so what?”
Last week Zuma told his supporters at his 75th birthday bash in Soweto that the marches against him were racist.
“If you show masses the middle finger, you are not going to go back tomorrow and say ‘please come here’ because yesterday you were showing the middle finger to the same masses,” Mantashe said. “You can’t do that. You can’t show the middle finger to the masses and expect them to come back. Chris (Hani)understood that very well,” he said.
Mantashe said the party was fragmented, adding that in making mistakes it gave its opponents space to exploit its challenges.
At another Hani commemoration event in Durban, Nzimande told the audience at Currie’s Fountain that the current environment needed leaders who were firm and not concerned just about protecting their jobs.
“We did not struggle to then hand over our beautiful country to an immigrant Indian family, the Gupta family. Comrades, we must stand up and fight against this because our country is being sold,” he said calling for the revocation of the citizenship of the Guptas, Zuma’s friends.
“This Gupta family is playing a very toxic role in our country, a very toxic role in relation to some of our own comrades who are working with this family.”
Nzimande said the ANC belonged to all its members and that those in positions of power should not think they were bigger than the organisation because they could also be removed from their positions.
The attack could be interpreted to be directed at Zuma.
“We all campaign for elections but now you get one person deciding who gets deployed when that should be the decision of the alliance as a whole. You can’t just decide to remove comrades, like Comrade Pravin (Gordhan) here, without consultation, then expect us to close ranks just because we are in an alliance.”
Nzimande warned the ANC against going to the national elective conference without having addressed the internal factionalism crippling it.
“Go and negotiate who is going to lead the ANC in December, don’t go for a shoot-out at the conference. Try and find consensus, otherwise whichever faction wins, they are going to go home with a shell.”
Later in the day, Zuma used a commemoration of those who died in political violence in the Musa Dladla region to hit out at his critics and those against his radical economic transformation drive.
“This was a resolution taken in 2012 and now we are implementing. But some people say we are pushing for radical economic transformation because we want to steal money. And these are some of the people I trusted in the organisation.”
Zuma was accompanied by his allies, Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Public Works Nathi Nhleko and secretary-general of the ANC Youth League Njabulo Nzuza. Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant was also present.
What is now fast becoming a trademark song for Zuma’s supporters, “Wenzeni uZuma (What has Zuma done)”, reverberated at King Bhekuzulu Hall at the University of Zululand where the inaugural Siyabakhumbula (We remember them) event took place.