January 20, 2012

ANC faction fight grows

Tension between the pro-Jacob Zuma faction and those calling for his removal as ANC president have intensified ahead of the crucial appeal hearing of suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and his officials. With just 10 months before the ANC's watershed elective conference in Mangaung both factions were trying to gain the high ground this week, with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe lashing out at treasurer general Mathews Phosa for questioning the decision to suspend Malema and Cabinet's decision to place five Limpopo provincial departments under administration. The league has hit back at Mantashe, accusing him and Zuma in a confidential letter seen by the Mail & Guardian of inconsistency in applying issues of discipline in the organisation.

The split also played itself out in Cabinet, with critics of the President saying he was allowing the government tail to wag the ANC dog and dictate policy to Luthuli House. This relates to Zuma's decision to break with tradition by convening a Cabinet lekgotla before the ANC's extended national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla.

"Traditionally, the January 8 statement is a policy statement," said a senior ANC and government official who asked not to be named. "From there, you deduce programmatic areas for the ANC lekgotla, which allows everyone outside the NEC [including alliance partners] to attend. The ANC lekgotla would then produce a document which would be discussed by a Cabinet lekgotla in preparation for the state of the nation address." Approached for comment, Mantashe said it was agreed last year to move the party's annual lekgotla from January to July in order to feed into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's budgetary planning cycle when he formulates the medium-term expenditure framework in October. "The discussions that took place at this week's Cabinet lekgotla will be discussed at the NEC in February in preparation for the state of the nation address and there is nothing unusual about that," said Mantashe.

Relations between the youth league and its mother body have deteriorated since Luthuli House's decision to charge Malema and his cohorts with bringing the ANC into disrepute and sowing divisions in its ranks. The decision has divided the party's top six officials, with Phosa, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and deputy secretary general Thandi Modise favouring a political solution to the matter while Mantashe, Zuma and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete prefer disciplinary action.

The league's leaders believe they are being targeted because they support Motlanthe and ANC head of campaigns Fikile Mbalula to replace Zuma and Mantashe as president and secretary general respectively in Mangaung later this year. The Zuma faction in KwaZulu-Natal circulated the names of preferred candidates for the top six positions. The names include Zuma for president, SACP boss Blade Nzimande for deputy president, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for secretary general and Mantashe for chairman.

Last week, the anti-Zuma faction also circulated its preferred candidates, who included Kgalema Motlanthe as president, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula as secretary general, North West Premier Thandi Modise as deputy secretary general, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale as chairman and National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel as treasurer. (Mail & Guardian)

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