File photo: ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Picture: David Ritchie

Johannesburg - Claims by African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe that there were forces backed by Western powers pushing for a regime change in South Africa were baseless and signified a party that was afraid of losing power, opposition parties said on Wednesday.

“The statements by Mantashe must be rejected as a reflection of political paranoia in light of the fact that the ANC is going to lose power. They signify a party that is afraid of losing power, which is now seeking to mobilise support in the continent under the pretext that it is the West, and not the genuine demands of the people that are looking for regime change,” said Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

In an interview with reporters in Johannesburg on Monday, Mantashe referred to Zimbabwe, which is ruled by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. He said the Zimbabwean opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was used by the West to destabilise the northern neighbour with the aim of removing Mugabe and the ZANU-PF from power.

“It did not start as MDC, it started by a formation of a trade union movement, and then got NGOs that came together and all graduated into MDC, whose intention to simply remove ZANU-PF from power almost succeeded,” Mantashe told reporters.

The Zimbabwean narrative was prevalent in South Africa, where “all of a sudden democratic institutions needed to be protected from us” by people who were not part of forming these institutions, said Mantashe.

Ndlozi said Mantashe should note that while the ANC and ZANU-PF shared common history in that they were both liberation movements, they also differed in significant ways.

He said the ANC, unlike ZANU-PF, never liberated the country through a guerrilla war, or even a conventional war. The South African struggle was won, not because of the strength of liberation movement armed forces, but the resilient protest activities of unarmed youth and workers’ movements.

“The second significant difference that Mantashe must know is that the ZANU-PF government, unlike the ANC government, expropriated land from white people. This is the pragmatic basis upon which many revolutionaries, now and then, believed in the claim that MDC was being used by Western forces to remove the ZANU-PF government. Regardless of all its weaknesses, ZANU-PF became the target of the West because of its refusal to concede on the land question.”

Congress of the People (Cope) spokesman Dennis Bloem said if Mantashe’s claims were true, government should identify the foot soldiers in the country working on instructions from the West.

“Why does the intelligence agency not act to bring them to book? It is common cause that when a lie is spoken often enough, it becomes politics. That is what it has become – new ANC politics,” said Bloem.

“Mantashe’s accusations are bizarre, baseless and spurious. They must be rejected with the contempt they deserve. If he has proof, let him act on it. If he hasn’t, he must not invent fictional politics and pass that as real politics.”

African News Agency