ANC dismisses call for its leadership to resign

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SOUTH Africa’s ruling ANC has dismissed a call by its chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, for the party’s NEC to resign in the wake of various controversies.

‘The NEC cannot resign because it was elected by the branches of the ANC. It is accountable to the branches,’ party spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, said on Sunday. ”If it feels in its own assessment that it has not provided leadership, it must account to the membership first.’

On Sunday, the City Press newspaper reported on comments made by Mthembu in which he declared that the ANC’s current leadership has ‘reduced the governing party to something that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth’.

‘Why should we not step down, given that we have messed up? All these things happened under our watch,’ Mthembu was quoted as saying. In the August 3rd local elections, the ANC lost the key metros of Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

Most recently, the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) decision to charge Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with fraud, has seen various ANC officials speak out in support of him. Mthembu told City Press that the way in which Gordhan was being pursued went ‘beyond political bankruptcy’.

Mthembu said he would use the next NEC gathering to raise his concerns: ‘After messing up, are we fit and proper to lead the ANC?’ He added: ‘Speaking out against what is wrong is the only way to save the ANC, or we will continue to guillotine one another.’

Mthembu told a local TV on Sunday that court action against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan reflected an abuse of power to settle political scores within the ANC and that the top leaders of the party, including himself, were no longer fit to control the situation.

He said: ‘President Jacob Zuma is the president of the ANC. When I said the entire ANC leadership that has already taken collective responsibility must take the fall, I meant everybody, myself included, including President Zuma.’

Gordhan faces charges of wrongdoing and fraud and should appear in court on November 2. Many say the prosecution is an attempt by a wealthy family close to Zuma to muzzle a Treasury chief who has been acclaimed for his disciplinary efforts to revive South Africa’s economy.

Mthembu said prosecuting Gordhan, which he said was politically motivated, was a further blow to the ANC amid the falling rate of public approval for the party. The ANC chief whip added: ‘In my view, a minister is being pursued for political reasons, and then charged with fraud. That’s why I’ve then said, perhaps we are not the leadership that can take the ANC forward under these conditions.’

However, on Sunday, Kodwa retorted, declaring that the party ‘won’t engage in public with the personal views of members of the organisation’. Reacting to the City Press article, Kodwa said that those ANC members making public comments needed to be ‘reminded’ rather to use channels within the organisation, as making their views public ‘it gives an impression that the organisation is divided’.

Kodwa said that the party continued to meet with ‘all and any’ branches to ‘resolve disputes’ arising since the August 3rd local elections. Meanwhile it emerged on Saturday that President Jacob Zuma’s personal guard now includes members of the police’s special task force, as well as heavily armed soldiers – an indication the officers responsible for his safety are becoming increasingly concerned about his safety.

The guards are in addition to the normal personnel of the police’s presidential protection unit (PPU), who are normally responsible for the president’s safety. All the additional guards mean Zuma’s motorcade now regularly consists of more than 20 vehicles and motorcycles.

That includes a medical van and a separate vehicle for Zuma’s personal military medic.

This is far more than any previous head of state has ever required. According to the Rapport newspaper, there was a meeting at Waterkloof Air Force Base two weeks ago, where the new safety measures for the president were discussed.

Informed sources say the protection measures are also applicable to Nkandla where the president spends most of his weekends. The PPU came under fire during the budget debate in Parliament earlier this year, when the police asked for an additional R2.6 million for protection services.

Opposition members in parliament pointed out that the amount of money being spent on VIP protection services had increased by 50% over the past three years. The unit is responsible for the protection of the president, deputy president, ministers and other important persons. Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, SANDF spokesperson, said in response to inquiries the defence force would not discuss any of the protection measures around Zuma with the media. The State Security Agency and the presidency did not react to numerous written requests for comment over the past week.

• Wits University vice chancellor Adam Habib says it would be irresponsible to remove private security and police from campus without a guarantee that the 2016 academic year will resume.

However, student leaders demand that the institution be demilitarised, with many saying the heavy police presence only aggravates tensions on campus, often resulting in violent outbreaks. Just last week, student leader Shaeera Kalla was injured when she was struck by more than ten rubber bullets.

Last Thursday, student leader Busisiwe Seabe and others were also injured when police opened fire with stun grenades and tear gas. But the vice chancellor says they cannot remove police from campus until student leaders have given a solid commitment to protest peacefully without disrupting the academic programme.

He said: ‘No violence, no arson and no disruption of the academic programme. They’ve refused to do so and as long as they refuse to do so, we cannot (remove security from campus).’

Habib says he’s shocked that Kalla was struck by more than ten rubber bullets and he’s waiting for the outcome of an Ipid probe. ‘I am told the police have been investigating the matter and I hope they conduct a speedy investigation.’

Seabe was discharged yesterday while Kalla remains in a stable condition in hospital.

The Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) Student Representative Council (SRC) says it will host a memorial service for student leader Lesego Benjamin Phehla who died during a Fees Must Fall demonstration last week.

Phehla and three other students were run over by a car during a march from TUT’s north campus to the south campus in Soshanguve last Thursday. They were all rushed to hospital where Phehla succumbed to his injuries. The protest was sparked by the university’s decision not to provide buses for students to join the demonstration at the Union Buildings.

SRC deputy president Freddy Khoza says the memorial service will take place at TUT’s Soshanguve south campus. Khoza said at the weekend: ‘TUT is going to have a memorial service for Benjamin Phehla and we are still working on a date. It will be in the coming week; student leadership, students and the family of Phehla are saddened by his passing, it is a great loss indeed.’

Police said late on Saturday that they had not yet arrested the driver of a car that ran over the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) student leader who later died in hospital. The police’s spokesperson Sally de Beer says they have now opened a culpable homicide case.

She said: ‘The driver is not under arrest. We will investigate thoroughly and once that is done we will take the investigation to the prosecutor who will decide whether to prosecute or not.’

The #FeesMustFall movement said on Sunday that protest action was likely to continue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Monday. Students were gathering at a meeting on Sunday night where they were set to discuss their strategy and plans for the week ahead.

Violent protests have erupted at university campuses across the country over the past few weeks, with students demanding free, decolonised education at universities. UCT student Leader Sinawo Thambo said on Sunday that students would be meeting later that night to decide their next move.

He said: ‘It will be around events of the past week, drafting a statement to the institution and how students have been brutalised by private security.’