ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made a revealing remark on Wednesday about the fierce disagreements going on behind closed doors within the ruling party.
“The point we are making is that we find it adult enough to close a door‚ beat each other up and‚ if you find me with a blue eye‚ I can develop a narrative that I bumped against a pole or something‚ rather than the leaders of the ANC going public with their disagreements‚” Mantashe said at a media briefing.
Despite their differing views‚ the ANC must continue to speak with one voice‚ Mantashe said after a special extended meeting of the party’s national working committee (NWC).
It was clear that ANC leaders had been persuaded to back down from previous criticism of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle.
Mantashe‚ deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize last week lashed out at the president’s decision to hire and fire a slew of ministers.
Ramaphosa said he was especially aggrieved that Zuma had used a questionable intelligence report to justify firing finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
Furthermore‚ Zuma had not consulted them about the decision to make sweeping changes to his cabinet‚ the trio said.
But after the NWC meeting‚ Mantashe appeared to have changed his mind.
“The mood of the meeting from Monday to Tuesday … It was one of the best meetings of the ANC‚ by the way – I must also say that. Because we had a long meeting where we said everything we wanted to say. There was no limitation on what we could say‚” Mantashe told journalists.
“It was beginning to remind the officials that‚ ‘Listen‚ you belong together‚ you must work together‚ you are not an option to each other … The NWC meeting‚ it was not as graphic as the officials’ meeting.”
Mantashe said Zuma had in fact consulted the ANC’s top leadership before the cabinet reshuffle. Deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte revealed that Zuma had informed the ANC’s top five in November last year that he wanted to remove Gordhan from his post.
Mantashe gave a clue on Wednesday about just how brutal the exchange must have been during the NWC‚ which had been broadened to include provincial ANC branches.
He rubbished reports that he and Ramaphosa had been cowed into apologising to Zuma.
However‚ he said ANC officials had acknowledged that “their public dissonance on the matter was a mistake that should not be committed again”.
Mantashe said the intelligence report was not the only reason why Gordhan was kicked out of cabinet. He said the relationship between Gordhan and Zuma had “irretrievably” collapsed and compared the breakdown in the relationship to a divorce.
“It translated into a divorce … The only people who can give you details of that relationship are people in that relationship.”
But he dismissed suggestions that Gordhan was mobilising against the ANC.
“Different views should be allowed and be engaged in the ANC. Diversity of ideas is not a source of weakness‚ it’s a source of strength. But you say‚ ‘Why do we not support people who do mass mobilisation?’ and you cite Pravin.
“I would imagine Pravin would not mobilise against the ANC. He is a member of the ANC. He is a member of the NEC … If he mobilises against the ANC‚ that cannot be accepted from a member of the NEC of the ANC.”