Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - In what appears to be an unofficial launch of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s campaign ahead of Mangaung, the ANC Youth League has urged him to stop all pretentions, get out of his “white suit” and rescue the party.

 As those supporting President Jacob Zuma say he was way ahead of his silent opponent, ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola sounded desperate and impatient with Motlanthe, urging him to fight and give the anxious youth “marching orders”.

 “We have to restore the dignity of the ANC. You can’t fight the struggle in a white suit… Get out of the white suit and into overalls and get your hands dirty,” he said.

 Lamola and Motlanthe were in Bizana, Eastern Cape, on Saturday, after their OR Tambo lecture was rescheduled last week following Zuma’s sudden descent on the contentious province, with the second-largest number of delegates to the party’s elective conference next month.

 The rally was attended by ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale. The two are known to be against Zuma’s bid for a second term. Also present was the president of the ANC Veterans League and Zuma critic Sandi Sejake, and leaders from the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo regions, two of the most influential regions in the province.

 Lamola defined “the mood” at the rally as reflecting “the mood of the youth of this country”.

 He said all of South Africa’s youth wanted Motlanthe to lead the ANC, adding that his “presence” at the rally was proof of “your love for the ANC Youth League”.

 The league is openly opposed to Zuma’s presidency after its erstwhile president Julius Malema was booted out of the ANC, but some believe that the current youth wing has lost its kingmaker status in the party.

 Lamola questioned those who have threatened Motlanthe not to stand.

The Sunday Independent reported last week that Motlanthe was rattled by the threats from the MK Military Veterans Association.

 “The deputy president must never be threatened. The constitution of the ANC allows him to stand. He does not need the permission of the MKMVA. When you stand you are not dividing the ANC. You are the only person who can rescue this organisation, and assist it to live for another 100 years,” said Lamola.

But Motlanthe stood by the ANC’s democratic principles and insisted that branches must decide, a veiled attack on lobbyists – a stand that has been criticised by his own campaigners.

 “Today we take away the right of branches to elect leadership. We come with slates and we elect according to slates. We end up electing leaders who are weak,” he said.

 The slates (factional lists), he said, came with conditions and those elected through slates remain beholden to the “compilers”.

 He said this would weaken the organisation.

Like Zuma last week, he invoked the name of the former longest-serving ANC president, Tambo, to lash his critics.

 He said leaders such as Tambo respected and upheld the ANC’s constitution and internal democratic processes, and that they exercised power responsibly. 

“[Former ANC leader] Oliver Tambo, understood that the democratic processes of the ANC must be respected… He understood that ANC leaders were elected within an acting capacity. And that must be taken to heart. You know, comrades, you never know someone well until they are in power,” said Motlanthe to loud applause. 

Motlanthe started off the day with a visit to the Tambo family where they slaughtered a cow and shared a traditional meal.

 He then visited a school in the area before heading to the Alfred Nzo Sports Stadium.

There, Motlanthe received a rapturous welcome, as he was introduced as “ANC President”.

 He tore into what he defined as foreign practices in the run-up to elective conferences.

 Motlanthe has not openly admitted that he would contest Zuma at the party’s conference in Mangaung in December.

 But several lobby groups have openly declared war against the Zuma presidency in his name, fuelling fears that the ANC’s 53rd conference could be one of the most divisive gatherings of the ruling party.

 The succession battles almost tore the party apart when, for the first time since 1949, the presidency of the organisation was bitterly contested in Polokwane in 2007.

 Delegates voted along factional lines, splitting the party into two warring factions.

 Motlanthe on Saturday warned against such factional lists, saying ANC leaders were becoming the architects of slates and used this to influence other leaders to join their camp or face the consequences.

 An ANC national executive committee member said Motlanthe’s presence on Saturday would unnerve the Zuma campaigners. 

“The reality is hitting them… [Motlanthe] is coming out strong. They are paranoid and desperate. Zuma is spending too much time here. Yesterday he was here under an organisation that doesn’t even exist. He wants to project himself as being wanted by the Eastern Cape,” said the NEC member. 

On Friday Zuma addressed the SA Unemployed Workers Union and he is expected to speak to AmaMpondomise, a Xhosa tribe, on Sunday. 

Sunday Independent