Tensions are brewing within the ANC executive committee following the revelations by the party’s secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, that the party misled Parliament to protect former president Jacob Zuma during the Nkandla scandal.
The party’s chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, said Mbalula got “carried away” and did not “count his words”.
Another ANC senior official and former police minister, Nkosinathi Hleko, has also criticised Mbalula, labelling him the worst secretary-general in the 112 years of the party’s existence.
Nhleko was the police minister in Zuma’s administration at the time and investigated the Nkandla debacle.
The party is currently celebrating its 112th anniversary in Mpumalanga, where it is scheduled to hold a rally at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday to mark its birthday.
Speaking at one of its build-up events in Barberton on Sunday, Mbalula said the party had misled Parliament to defend its then-president regarding the Nkandla scandal.
“We went to Parliament and said a swimming pool was a fire pool … and the police minister (Nkosinathi Nhleko at the time) was sweating without having drunk alcohol, seeing that this was a lie. It’s difficult to explain lies. People have lost their careers because of it,” Mbalula said.
This was seen as a swipe at Zuma who recently spoke out in public that he would be campaigning for the uMkhonto we Sizwe Party.
In 2014, Thuli Madonsela, who was the public protector at the time, found that Zuma had “unduly benefited” from upgrades to his family home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Responding to Mbalula’s assertions, Mantashe said he had got carried away when he saw cameras, insinuating that Mbalula got “excited” and did not think before he spoke.
“When you lead, you count every word that you say because when you don’t, you catch fire …
“I reminded comrades that when we went to Nkandla we saw that swimming pool and when we came out journalists ambushed us and asked us what we saw. We told them that it was a swimming pool but, because it has a lot of water, in case of fire it can be used as a fire pool.
“We closed the case because it’s a swimming pool with a lot of water. We closed the case so I don’t know why you (Mbalula) would want to renew that today,” he said.
In a leaked audio that did the rounds on social media yesterday, someone who sounds like Nhleko privately responds to Mbalula’s outburst, saying he is the worst secretary-general in the 112 years of the party’s existence.
The audio seems to be a voice note sent to a WhatsApp group of senior ANC leaders in the Musa Dladla region, to which Nhleko belongs.
In the audio, Nhleko said Mbalula spoke “without thinking” and opened a lot of loopholes while he implicated President Cyril Ramaphosa as he was deputy president at the time.
He said he reported to Ramaphosa over the Nkandla matter because he chaired the political committee.
“I’m convinced now. I don’t like talking about these things. I will talk about these things in detail at a later stage but all I can say in the ANC is that if we have a secretary-general who is like this, the worst of its kind ever, in the 112-year-old liberation movement.
“You can’t speak before thinking … you can’t have a person with leadership responsibility (Mbalula) but then behave the way he is behaving.
“If he is saying I was lying, he should point out who gave me the instruction to lie on behalf of the ANC. This includes the deputy president (Ramaphosa) at the time, who is now the president, because it’s the person I was reporting to about such issues in the context of the political committee,” he said in the voice note.
Nhleko added that during his investigations he was backed up with all relevant documentation by different experts.
Nhleko, when he was still police minister, stood by his report which stated that Zuma did not have to repay any of the money.
The report also found that the pool, classed as a security feature, was necessary to protect Zuma.