ANCYL president Julius Malema. Picture: Neil Baynes

Divisions in the ruling party over President Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane’s closeness to the politically well-connected Gupta family came to the fore yesterday when ANC Youth League president Julius Malema lashed out at “families enriching themselves in the name of freedom”.

He made the comments at an otherwise low-key launch of the ANC’s local government elections manifesto at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

With Zuma sitting behind him on the stage, Malema said South Africa was “not a democracy of families; this is a democracy of the people of the country”.

“When families are exploiting the resources of this country and are enriching themselves in the name of freedom, when those in political office abuse their power to benefit friends, the youth must rise in defence of the ANC.”

His comments came in the wake of weekend reports of deep concern within the ANC and its alliance partners that the Guptas, who hail from India, enjoy inside knowledge of cabinet and executive appointments and allegedly have influence over the appointment of the heads of state-owned enterprises.

The manifesto launch followed a difficult week for the party, when it had to deal with allegations that new labour legislation would discriminate against coloured and Indian people as well as the Public Protector’s findings that national police commissioner General Bheki Cele was guilty of improper and unlawful conduct with regard to the R500 million SAPS headquarters lease.

Unlike the launch of the ANC’s 2009 election manifesto in East London, where more than 60 000 people fought for space in two stadiums, Zuma did not have to address the “overflow stadium” billed in yesterday’s programme.

Malema - who was so popular that the mostly young crowd dressed in yellow ANC T-shirts with Zuma’s face on erupted in applause and cheers, forcing Zuma to pause after introducing him - also said the country’s mines, of which many lie around Rustenburg, belonged to the people.

“These are your mines. These are our minerals and we will fight for them, and we will win because we will realise economic freedom in our lifetimes,” he said.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Zuma’s closeness to the Gupta brothers, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh, who have been involved in lucrative mining and other business deals with Zuma’s son Duduzane, has infuriated some within the party.

Youth league leaders have privately admitted that they have had enough of Zuma’s family business dealings and might not support him for re-election at the party’s elective conference next year.

However, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe denied yesterday that the party faced an internal revolt over Zuma’s family dealings with the Guptas.

“I don’t know where the revolt is, Mantashe said.

“I’m not revolting.

“I don’t know of any meeting where this discussion might have taken place,” he added.

Mantashe accused the media of deliberately and gratuitously emphasising the ANC links to businesspeople, even when there was no need for this.

The Gupta brothers and Zuma’s children were not spotted at yesterday’s launch or a gala dinner on Saturday night.

Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said the trade union federation had raised its concerns about the lack of transparency over how “these deals come through” on several occasions, including during last week’s alliance summit.

“We are saying if we don’t start to address the perception that it is those connected or with a certain surname who get these deals, then we risk the erosion of confidence in the system.”

Zuma did not address these concerns yesterday, focusing instead on local government, where he acknowledged there were problems.

People’s daily experience with municipalities, unhelpful clerks and hotlines that didn’t work lay behind their negative attitude towards local government, Zuma said, adding that councillors should be more accountable.

Without mentioning the city by name, Zuma also acknowledged the billing chaos affecting Johannesburg, which mayor Amos Masondo has refused to acknowledge as a crisis.

The president stressed the need for building non-racial communities, adding that South Africa should be a “home for all”, including people from Tembisa, Mitchells Plain and Ventersdorp. - Cape Times