Johannesburg - Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) has taken aim at Stan Mathabatha, the African National Congress (ANC) Limpopo chairperson, warning him against making "immature statements" in support of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, which smacked of tribalism.
In a statement issued late on Sunday, the MKMVA) said it had "with utter dismay taken note of the ethnically loaded and immature statements" Mathabatha issued regarding the contestation for the ANC presidency.
The Limpopo Premier is backing Ramaphosa to take over the leadership of the ANC at the elective conference in December.
"Comrade Mathabatha is reported to have said that the last time that Limpopo produced an ANC President was in 1917 when President Safako Makgatho was elected and that the time has now come to have another president from Limpopo," recounted the MKMVA.
"He said this in apparent support of comrade Cyril Ramaphosa. We note that comrade Mathabatha made matters even worse by having added that there seems to be one province that thinks it is the only one that can produce presidents of the ANC."
Also in the running to lead the ANC is former African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is from KwaZulu-Natal. The incumbent leader President Jacob Zuma is from the same province.
The military veterans association said if found Mathabatha's statements "highly irresponsible and provocative". It, however, said it was possible and perfectly acceptable for two, or even more, ANC presidents to come from the same province as long as they are competent and have the support of the majority of ANC members.
In the statement, MKMVA added that it has "no problem" with Mathabatha supporting Ramaphosa because that is his democratic right.
"We are, however, seriously concerned when he articulates that support in regional and ethnic terms," said the MKMVA in the statement issued by its national spokesperson, Carl Niehaus.
"We find it strange that we have to remind comrade Stan [Mathabatha] that both comrades O.R Tambo and Nelson Mandela came from the same province and ethnic group (to mention but one example), and this was not an issue because ability and national support were the criteria that prevailed."