Durban - ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe set off a social media frenzy on Friday when he charged that clandestine meetings, promoting regime change in South Africa, were being held regularly at the US Embassy in Pretoria.
“As we mobilise our people, we must say, ‘Be vigilant. You must see through anarchy and people who are out there in a programme of regime change.’
“We are aware of the meetings taking place regularly at the American embassy,” Mantashe told tens of thousands of ANC supporters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
“Those meetings in the American embassy are about nothing else other than mobilisation for regime change. We’re aware of a programme that takes young people to the US for six weeks, brings them back and plants them in the campuses and everywhere.”
American ambassador Patrick Gaspard hit back on Twitter, saying that people shouldn’t blame others for their own challenges.
Gaspard appeared to mock the claims, saying Mantashe should be aware of the programme because he personally invited him to recommend young ANC leaders for it.
He also said he’d always imagined that if he was going to organise a coup, it would look like a Mardi Gras with music, food and dance.
Imran Garda commented on Twitter: “Am I wrong, or has South Africa’s ruling party just accused US ambassador @patrickgaspard of plotting a coup in the country?”
Meanwhile, in Pretoria, Mantashe went on to suggest that “regime change elements” which gripped countries like Libya and Egypt had crept into South Africa.
“Anarchists” were given “so much rights” here that they were “making our parliament a joke”.
“Democracy is about us exercising our right of being the majority party. It can’t be that every time we take a decision in the legislature it must go to the judiciary for ratification. I’m not attacking the judiciary, but we are the majority,” Mantashe said, adding the ANC had the right to make decisions and enforce them.
Yesterday’s march, attended by 86 000 ANC supporters, was aimed at promoting an end to racism.
“It’s a positive march. We want to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. We are not marching on ourself. We are mobilising society to appreciate that building the ideal South Africa is not an event, but a journey,” Mantashe continued.
Freedom, he said, was not enough.
“What we achieved in 1994 was the beginning of a long journey, not the destination. We’ve not achieved economic freedom. That economic freedom required a united people. If we’re not united, land reform will remain distorted. Poverty, inequality and unemployment is traceable to land hunger.”
South Africans needed access to arable land so they could contribute to the nation’s food security.
“The question of food security cannot be left to the preserve of TAU-SA (Transvaal Agricultural Union SA), a racist farmers’ organisation,” he declared, claiming that farmers “want to create an impression that food production is a preserve of white farmers only”.
A high-security perimeter fence separated the thousands wearing yellow ANC T-shirts from the party leadership. Many of the T-shirts bore messages including “Hands off Zuma” and “Vote ANC”, while placards urged people to “Register to vote ANC”.