US coup threat not a joke, says ANC
Cape Town - ANC leaders say they will formally raise concerns with the US over meetings at the American embassy in Pretoria they claim were aimed at promoting regime change in South Africa.
“We will elevate this matter to a formal level,” ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said on Saturday.
Speaking to thousands of supporters at a march in Pretoria on Friday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said they needed to be vigilant and “see through anarchy and people who are out there in a programme of regime change”.
He said the ANC knew of regular meetings at the US embassy in Pretoria which were about “mobilisation for regime change”.
The ANC was also aware of a programme that involved taking young people to the US for six weeks and on return, planting them “everywhere”, including universities.
His statements led Patrick Gaspard, the US ambassador to South Africa, to quip on Twitter: “I’m so disappointed as I always imagined that if I organised a coup it would look like Mardi Gras – food, music, dance.”
On Saturday Khoza said such tweets would not deter the ANC from taking the issue seriously. “We will raise our concerns as a country whether they make a joke of it or not. If they (the US) had a concern and raised it with us, we wouldn’t treat it as a joke.”
On Saturday, Weekend Argus tried to speak to Gaspard, but a US embassy spokeswoman said his tweets sufficiently conveyed his response.
You get a coup d'état and you get a coup d'état and you get a coup d'état! Everybody gets a coup!!!! pic.twitter.com/ZAe4rgIZ6z
— Ambassador Gaspard (@patrickgaspard) February 19, 2016
It appears Mantashe was referring to the Young African Leaders Initiative and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a six-week programme in the US.
On Saturday Andrew Gasnola, 30, of Cape Town, who in 2014 participated in the six-week programme, said Mantashe’s statements were puzzling.
He said the programme did not target only South Africans, but young leaders from the entire African continent. “Some who went on the programme are ANC members,” Gasnola said.