African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula has come out to deny that his remarks about former president Thabo Mbeki were meant to attack him.
Mbalula said the remarks were meant to show the world that in the governing party, veterans like Mbeki had free rule to criticise them when they deemed it fit.
Mbalula made the remarks — deemed by others to be an attack — on Sunday at Harry Gwala stadium in Pietermaritzburg while delivering a speech as they reviewed the ANC's 2019 elections manifesto with branches.
While addressing the fully packed stadium, Mbalula said even though Mbeki always said what he liked about the ANC, they did not fight with him.
“Even Mbeki says what he wants (about the ANC), but we never fought with him, he says what he likes, but we never fought with him,” Mbalula said.
WATCH: ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula taking on former President Thabo Mbeki. Mbalula was speaking at a manifesto review event of the governing party in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/HCx5yTmxPK— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) October 9, 2023
“You see, when someone ages, he becomes like a child and says what he wants, don’t fight with him even if he says things we don’t like,” Mbalula said at the rally.
“That’s fine, after all, they are old, we leave them to say what they want and don’t fight with anyone.”
When the video of the remarks started doing rounds on social media, Mbalula issued a statement saying he was not attacking Mbeki as it is now perceived in some quarters.
WATCH: ANC National chairperson, Gwede Mantashe saying the 50 percent demand for parliamentary seats by the Youth League will not happen. He says they will only be accommodated using the current format. pic.twitter.com/4Sadhdyf64— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) October 8, 2023
Instead, he said he was highlighting the critical role played by ANC veterans and the selective remarks in the video were meant to distort Mbalula’s message.
He said that remark was not only about Mbeki, but about all the ANC veterans “making candid remarks about the fortune of the ANC”.
Mbalula added that he has great respect for Mbeki who led the party from 1997 until 2007 when former president Jacob Zuma defeated him at the watershed Polokwane elective conference.
UPDATE: Former President Jacob Zuma has described the late Reverend Erlo Stegen of KwaSizabantu mission as a hero, a generous man, and a man of the people. He recalls how he used to donate stuff to him when he hosted Christmas parties for the poor and the old of Nkandla. pic.twitter.com/Wl0VaDW3VL— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) October 8, 2023
“I have tremendous respect for former President Mbeki and enjoy open communication line with him as an elder and former leader of our movement,” Mbalula said.
“From time to time I take counsel from him and he has been consistent in engaging with the leadership at [the National Executive Committee] NEC level on matters that concern the ANC.”