Emboldened by his election as ANC chairman‚ Gwede Mantashe used the wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of former ANC president OR Tambo on Friday to take a calculated swipe at President Jacob Zuma.
The ceremony‚ which took place in Wattville‚ Benoni‚ comes three days before Cyril Ramaphosa’s first January 8 statement as ANC president‚ which will be in East London.
Mantashe said the ANC has elected a president “who is rich and who has money. He is wealthy. He is rich. We elected a president who would not steal. If [he] steals we will ask him‚ ‘why do you steal because you have money’.”
He criticised Zuma supporters who have repeatedly said the president was going nowhere.
“When there is a leadership of the ANC there is basic requirement that leadership must analyse the movement broadly. Weakness of the last two or three years has been the personification of politics. We can’t talk personal politics‚ we must talk ANC.”
Mantashe added: “There is nothing called a no-go area. We must allow the ANC to look into its values. We must enter painful areas and deal with them.”
Mantashe told the crowd that Zuma’s supporters were abusing his name to cover for their own demeanours.
“They must stop it because it is dangerous to the movement. It hurts Comrade Zuma. People must not abuse his name to cover for their own demeanours. The ANC can’t be sitting on the fence and it must lead the society. Leading society means we must enter painful areas.”
Mantashe said the ANC must draw lessons from the life and times of Tambo.
“He was the most distinguished leader of our movement. You earn that. You don’t need praise singers to say so‚” he said. “He kept the movement together during most difficult times. We divide it during the easiest times.”
Mantashe said Tambo dealt with problems constructively and offered to resign during the ANC Morogoro conference in Tanzania in 1969.
“If you can’t do the right thing‚ you must offer to resign. If you can’t do that‚ you are failing Oliver Tambo.”
Mantashe’s comments come amid renewed calls for Zuma‚ who has been mired in controversies‚ to step down as president of the country.
Mantashe said the biggest challenge facing the governing party was to save its reputation and image.
“You can’t have an ANC that has a trust deficit between itself and the people. You can’t have an ANC that is synonymous with corruption.”
SACP first deputy general-secretary Solly Mapaila said the ANC must not to be a tool to amass the wealth for individuals.
“We are happy with the outcome of the conference and the leadership that has been elected. We will work together with anyone as long as all of us are pushing the ideas of national democratic revolution‚” Mapaila said.
He added that the ANC-led alliance‚ which includes the SACP and labour federation Cosatu‚ must be transformed to meet the problems facing the people.
Those in attendance at the wreath-laying ceremony included Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina‚ a known Zuma die-hard supporter‚ who cut a lonely figure.