President Jacob Zuma took a strong stand at this weekend’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Irene in Gauteng, defending his position on the issue of land expropriation without compensation, and challenging his critics to read the ANC’s 2012 conference resolutions if they disagreed with his views.
City Press heard that Zuma had “set the record straight” by “explaining where the policy comes from and calling those who have been criticising him in the media to order”.
ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize and head of the economic transformation subcommittee Enoch Godongwana were among those who had described recent talk of land expropriation without compensation as “populist” and “playing to the gallery”.
An NEC member sympathetic to Zuma said the president detailed the historical background of the land question, dating back to the time of the late ANC president, Oliver Tambo, “who said the core of our struggle was about land”.
Zuma concluded that “talk of populism was an indicator that the people do not read [ANC] conference resolutions, and that is why they do not implement them”.
A meeting of the ANC’s national working committee on Monday had also debated the land question, resulting in a decision that a special NEC gathering be called before the national policy conference, set to take place from June 30 to July 5, to thoroughly discuss the ANC’s position.
Those with knowledge of the Monday meeting described it as “tense and hot”.
The NEC this weekend agreed with the working committee on the importance of holding a special meeting to discuss land policy.
The NEC member who spoke to City Press said Zuma was “reminding people that the ANC’s own resolutions could not be called populist statements”.
“[Zuma] said he did not want to talk to people through the media. That is why he kept quiet and waited for the NEC platform to explain his position.
“He was asserting his authority, challenging those who say the policy does not belong to the ANC to explain its origin,” City Press heard.
“It cannot be that we spoke about this thing in 2012, and when we point out that we failed to implement it, you talk about rhetoric. Are you saying the branches of the ANC did not apply their minds correctly?” he quoted the president as saying.
There had also been a push for the NEC to discuss the validity of Andile Lungisa’s election as the party’s regional chairperson in Nelson Mandela Bay – which was expected to set up another showdown between Zuma and Mantashe.
“There is no crisis”
Mantashe insisted on Friday that the case of Lungisa was not on the NEC’s agenda, but those close to Lungisa said it would be discussed as part of the national working committee’s report.
Mantashe had objected to Lungisa’s decision to stand for the post, on the grounds that he was still a member of the ANC provincial executive in the Eastern Cape, and this prohibited him from contesting a seat in the regional structure.
Mantashe added that the ANC’s top six had nullified Lungisa’s election.
Zuma’s close allies told City Press that he had a mandate to go to the weekend meeting and “confirm that [Lungisa] is properly elected and is not going to resign”.
“There is no crisis. That guy has been elected by a constitutional structure of the ANC. He is the chairperson of the region. The bigger agenda is that we need young leaders in the ANC and [Lungisa] gave us an opportunity for the ANC to be reinvigorated.”
However, others inside the ANC said a decision in favour of Lungisa would mean that other instances where members had been stopped from contesting in regional structures, while they served in upper structures, would also have to be reviewed.
For instance, this would mean the eThekwini regional conference would have to be reopened to allow Deputy Agriculture Minister Bheki Cele, also a member of the ANC’s NEC, to stand after he was blocked by Mantashe in 2014.
Nullifying eThekwini would also mean dissolving the follow-up KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial conference, which saw Zuma’s supporters make a clean sweep by taking the top five positions in the province. The provincial conference was also the subject of an ongoing court case over allegations of election-rigging.
“It would also mean that the ANC in the Western Cape should be dissolved so that Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha could contest for a position in the provincial executive, since he was also stopped,” said the insider.
Marius Fransman, a close Zuma ally, had won the position of chairperson at the Western Cape provincial conference, but he was later suspended on charges of bringing the ANC into disrepute following sexual harassment allegations.
Former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa said he expected that there should be consequences when ANC rules were not being followed.
“We have reached a critical point in the history of our country and movement, where the people of our country are fast losing confidence in us as we suffocate from one scandal to another. We have to restore the trust of our people as we reclaim our space,” said Phosa.
“We cannot continue to be seen as promoting a culture of immunity, with no consequences for wrongdoing. It is not going to be an easy road ahead.”