ON SONG: Thandi Modise, Gwede Mantashe, Mathews Phosa, President Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe at the ANC policy conference at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, where Zuma directed a veiled attack at veterans league president Sandi Sejake. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Sue Segar

ANC VETERANS League President Sandi Sejake has hit back at the ruling party after it met behind his back with the league leadership to discuss his recent criticism of President Jacob Zuma and the party, saying he would not live with the image of corruption attached to the ANC.

“I am not part of those who are corrupt. There should be a lifestyle audit to distinguish the corrupt members from those of us who are genuine members who love the ANC,” he said. “We will not live with this corrupt label because of some individuals who are perpetrating anti-ANC behaviour.”

Sejake was responding after ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe issued a statement late on Monday saying the party had met the veterans league leadership, which had expressed its disappointment at Sejake’s pronouncements and “collectively distanced themselves from the reckless and unwarranted comments”.

The meeting came after Zuma, in his opening address at the party’s policy conference in Midrand last week, directed a veiled attack at Sejake, who had criticised the party leadership and called for Zuma to be replaced at the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung in December.

He has recently also slammed the party’s handling of the Spear painting issue and the disciplinary steps taken in relation to ANC Youth League members.

In January this year, Sejake said “syndicates” had taken over the election of leadership in the ANC at all levels. He said Zuma must be removed as party president in Mangaung because of his ties to the powerful Gupta family.

Zuma warned in his address last week against wanton ill-discipline and suggested those who defied the party leadership would face serious consequences and risked expulsion.

Zuma, in turn, cautioned elders in the party who defended the ill- discipline of the ANC Youth League, saying their role was to help the organisation and not to worsen controversial decisions.

A defiant Sejake said in response to Zuma’s threats of disciplinary action: “Discipline must have grounds.

“I am very clear about what is happening in the ANC. Many people in the ANC are bought. They are not volunteers like we were. Nobody came to me with money promising me tenders and government positions. For me it was about getting rid of apartheid and building a non-racial democracy.”

Veterans league secretary-general Natso Khumalo effectively endorsed Mantashe’s statement yesterday, when, asked for comment, he said: “Once the leadership has spoken, it means they have spoken. That’s it.”

Khumalo would not be drawn further on the matter.

Mantashe said in the statement the meeting followed a number of negative comments by Sejake in relation to the ANC national executive committee and Zuma.

“He has made comments to the effect that the ANCVL supports the view that the current leadership of the ANC, including President Jacob Zuma, will be removed in the ANC national conference to be held in Mangaung in December this year.”

Mantashe said Sejake, himself an NEC member, had sought to undermine it and the president “outside of the established framework”.

The veterans league leadership had explained it had not given Sejake a mandate for his comments.

“The ANC views his conduct as being inconsistent with his responsibility as the president of the ANCVL,” Mantashe said.

The ANC valued the experience and commitment demonstrated by its veterans, saying they were regarded as people “beyond reproach whose integrity is highly regarded”, Mantashe added.

“Over time, these stalwarts of our movement have played a role of advising and guiding the organisation to deal with challenges in an unassuming and dispassionate manner. It is, therefore, concerning when a senior member of the organisation gets entangled in divisive pronouncements,” Mantashe continued. “The ANC calls on Comrade Sejake to desist from conduct that will undermine the contribution he has made to ensure that the ANC became a vibrant and resilient organisation to the point of celebrating a centenary.”

The veterans league – open to all ANC members 60 and older – was started in 2007 by Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, considered a political rival to Zuma and reportedly close to Sejake.

Asked for comment yesterday, Sejake said Monday’s meeting was “news to me”.

“I never knew they were meeting by themselves, let alone with ANC leaders.

“Our last meeting of the veterans league was in March. We haven’t met since then.”

He said this was an attempt to divide the leadership of the league ahead of the election process in Mangaung at the end of the year.

Sejake said he was undaunted by threats of discipline.

“One of the functions of the veterans league is to speak out about what is wrong,” he said.