Durban - ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Thursday said the African National Congress, as a 105 year-old movement, could not afford to gamble with leadership and should manage succession and explain why a sitting deputy should not succeed the president.
Mantashe was addressing close to a thousand ANC supporters at a cadres' forum in Gamalakhe, Port Shepstone, in the Lower South Coast region of the ANC, where he also said the donning of T-shirts showcasing support to the party’s presidential race candidates tampered with loyalty to the party.
He said he had been vilified for questioning why the party’s sitting deputy should not ascend to the presidency in a smooth handing over of the baton.
“I have been attacked for raising a basic question. I have not campaigned for anybody, but just raised a basic question that how can a movement that is 105-years-old allow succession to be a free-for-all? It can’t be."
“What kind of a liberation movement that is revolutionary allows its leadership succession to be a free-for-all? That’s my question and I will ask it every day,” Mantashe said.
He said the Communist Party of China, which was founded in 1921, was already managing its succession by preparing a successor for its leader Xi Jinping, a route the ANC should also follow.
Mantashe said there was no tradition that deputy presidents should succeed the president, but the party as an old movement should manage succession and not gamble with it.
“Comrade Zuma had this experience, therefore he should have the wisdom to manage the transition. If a sitting deputy is not elected as the president there should be an explanation given to the organisation detailing his weaknesses on why he can’t lead,” Mantashe said.
He said this would help the ANC be at peace with itself.
Mantashe said there was also no principle that the party should get a female president because when they headed to the ANC conference, the party wanted a president of the ANC regardless of their gender.
“We are not looking for a woman president because there is no principle that says so. A woman president is elected at the Women’s League conference."
“There will be nothing wrong for an old movement like ours to say ‘to manage the transition we think that the time has arrived to have a female leader’ and they say we should get a deputy president that is a woman. In that way, we’re managing transition,” Mantashe said.
He said the party lacked a leadership with character that embodied Oliver Tambo’s ability to handle constructive engagement with criticism.
“We must deal with criticism constructively, criticism directed at us leadership must not make us angry,” Mantashe said.
He also urged branch leaders to be honest with each other and their branches and said there should be no effort made to keep a member of the ANC out of a branch general meeting.
“Branch leaders should be working to get every member of the ANC into the BGMs,” said Mantashe. Mantashe’s call to party members on Thursday to refrain from wearing T-shirts and singing songs in support of the party’s presidential race candidates fell on deaf ears as songs in support of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa reverberated around the Gamalakhe TVET College.
Ten minutes into his address Mantashe was disrupted by a power cut which lasted the best part of half an hour, which was seen as a window of opportunity by the crowd who then belted out a series of tunes in support of Ramaphosa.
The crowd also briefly jeered when ANC provincial executive member Makhosi Zungu, deployed to oversee the Lower South Coast region, sang a song in support of President Jacob Zuma.