Durban — “Leave me alone. I am not financing any political party or have any ambitions to be in politics. I just want to live my life quietly away from politics.”
So says Schabir Shaik, former financial adviser of ex-president Jacob Zuma, who happened to be at the same venue with Zuma on Saturday last week, fuelling speculation that he had joined the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party.
In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Shaik confirmed that he had been at the same venue with Zuma but insisted that this was to discuss the plight of Palestine, and not the MK Party or any other political topics.
He said he was aware of the reports on social media and rumours that he was organising minority communities to support the MK Party, but he dismissed them as mischievous.
Shaik detailed how he had been asked to introduce Zuma by the owners of the Vapor Café, and how the former president had used the time to lambaste the international community, especially the UN, for failing to act decisively against Israel and to express support for the people of Palestine.
Aside from this, according to Shaik, Zuma had not discussed any political subject at the gathering.
He told of how he sought to live his life quietly and peacefully without any involvement in politics and had been shocked by reports of him organising and financing the MK Party activities.
The reports, he added, were simply aimed at disturbing his peace as he did not have the money to finance a political party.
“To fill up Moses Mabhida Stadium to capacity will probably cost millions of rand for each person that will need to be transported to the venue from all parts of the country, be given food, and T-shirts. I know that because I was part of the ANC team under treasurer Thomas Nkobi that ran the 1994 elections machinery,” he said.
Shaik was sent to jail in 2009 for corruption. He was released on medical parole two years later, claiming he was terminally ill. His 15-year sentence expired in 2020.
Meanwhile, the ANC in KZN has convened a provincial executive committee meeting this weekend to discuss a raft of challenges it faced, including the emergence of the MK Party and its impact on the party’s support.
The ANC will hold a press conference at its offices in Durban on Monday.
“The ANC will hold a press briefing on Monday where it will communicate its decisions, including the attitude of the members that have followed leadership instructions,” said Mafika Mndebele, spokesperson for the KZN ANC.
The press briefing follows a provincial working committee meeting during the week which also discussed the challenges facing the ruling party.
As Zuma continues to criss-cross KZN and the country, calls have been made for tough sanctions against members who appear to be defying the ANC’s instruction to not associate themselves with the MK Party. Mndebele insisted that the province’s position on Zuma and the MK Party was clear.
“As a former president, comrade Zuma’s matter is being handled at the national level and so far the national executive committee has not made any pronouncement on the matter,” he said.
Mndebele said the province would follow the cue of the national body on the matter.
Attempts to get comment from ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri were unsuccessful.
However, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe was quoted in other media as saying that while the ANC should take disciplinary action against Zuma, it should do so after the national elections.
An ANC activist in the Moses Mabhida Region – which is made up of Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas – said while they had heard the noise about the impact of MK Party, they regarded it as an illusion without any tangible base.
“The fact is that the ANC has members and branches, so there is visible machinery.
“This (MK) party is almost like a football team that operates in the lower division and therefore does not pose any challenge to the ANC,” said the activist.
Another party activist from the eThekwini Region said it was about time that the leadership acted against unruly elements, especially after they had been cautioned against associating themselves with the MK Party.
“After the provincial working committee meeting this week, the process of disciplinary action will start. There are people who must be summarily suspended with immediate effect and be processed,” said the activist who is in touch with the inner workings of the ANC.
The ANC provincial executive committee meeting takes place at the same time that the South African National Civics Organisation is holding a gathering of senior leaders this weekend.
Political analyst Thabani Khumalo noted how the MK Party had emerged at a time when many people had expressed reservations about the ANC. Khumalo said the true impact of the MK Party on the body politic would be felt after the national elections.
He pointed out that the MK Party’s rise was almost similar to that of the Congress of the People (Cope).
“I can label them as a disruptor to the political setting, and only time will tell of the value that they will add,” said Khumalo.