DURBAN - ‘WE MUST not inflame racism. We do not want to go back to that.”
That was the message yesterday from the head of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, who urged those who supported President Jacob Zuma and those who did not to respect each other’s views.
On Sunday, Zikalala and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan are scheduled to share a podium in Durban to address the Ahmed Kathrada memorial service at the Sastri College in Greyville.
In an interview, Zikalala allayed fears sparked by the ANC Youth League who had threatened to disrupt the memorial service “with the intention of protecting Zuma’s image from those who wanted to tarnish it”.
“We have engaged with them and can assure people who will be attending the memorial service that the youth league will not disrupt it,” said Zikalala.
On Saturday, Zuma made his first reference to the political storm that has raged since he reshuffled his cabinet just over a week ago.
At the unveiling of the tombstone of the late minister of public service and administration, Collins Chabane, in Limpopo, he said: “I’m so happy no one used the unveiling to fight their own political battles. Today if anyone had stood up and used the unveiling to divide the organisation, I would have told that person to sit down.”
On Friday, members of the Active Citizens Movement (ACM), organisers of the Durban leg of Kathrada’s memorial services, were in the Durban High Court for an urgent interdict to restrain the youth league from “performing an act calculated to disrupt the memorial service”.
Judge Rashid Vahed ruled that since the service was a public event, where ANC leaders were speaking, the court could not bar the youth league from attending.
However, he warned them to conduct themselves in a respectable manner and said the ANC leadership needed to publish a statement warning its members of this, prior to attending.
Spokesperson for the ACM, Ben Madokwe, said: “It was never our intention to prevent the ANCYL from attending the event, but we had to protect the speakers and the people who will be there as well as the integrity of the event. We are happy with the order because it gives us a guarantee they will behave.”
ANCYL provincial deputy chairperson Sibonelo Mtshali said: “We have no intention of disrupting the event and also believe it was a bit extreme of the organisers to try and prevent us from attending because we also, like them, want to pay homage to Uncle Kathy.”
Kathrada was jailed on Robben Island with former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Andrew Mlangeni.
Zikalala said the ANC was reflecting on the divergent views in South African society. If the divide was not remedied urgently, it would have irreparable consequences, he said.
Zikalala said the country belonged to all who lived in it and warned no one must claim to be superior to another.
“Because that would be a recipe for a huge disaster,” he said.
“We don’t want the province and the country to reverse to the ugly time when we fought each other. We have made strides to be where we are and anything that threatens to reverse those gains must be collectively fought.”
Zikalala said people had the right to vent their anger. “But we must not allow emotions to rule us. We need to have a sober discussion as a country and follow correct procedures.”
Gordhan said ANCYL utterances belonged to them and he would not respond. While there was speculation he would resign as an MP, he said he had not made a decision.
Asked about reports he was going to form his own party, he said: “That’s nonsense. I remain a member of the ANC and have no ambition of starting my own political party.”
On Wednesday, opposition parties are holding another mass gathering in Church Square in Pretoria to add pressure on Zuma to step down.