Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu addresses the opening of new ANC branch in Keiskammahoek near King William’s Town, where she has been nominated to run for the ANC presidency in December. Picture: Tebogo Letsie
Sisulu, who is also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and national working committee, said the leaders’ forebears displayed responsible leadership and handed over to them a vibrant and healthy organisation.
Speaking to City Press shortly after she officiated over the renaming of a branch in the Eastern Cape, where she was also lobbied to stand for the presidency, Sisulu:
– Cautioned that the ANC could lose the 2019 general election if it continued on its current trajectory;
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– Said those marching against the ANC and, in particular, against President Jacob Zuma could not just be dismissed;
– Slammed the treatment of concerned veterans by the ANC leadership; and
– Confirmed that she had received information that her life had been threatened.
Sisulu has been touted as a potential candidate for the ANC presidency. City Press understands that her lobbyists have set up processes to drive her campaign.
This means she will be joining a field of candidates believed to include Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, former African Union Commission chair Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.
While none of them has declared their intentions, their lobbyists have been hard at work.
Members of the newly named ZR Mahabane branch in Keiskammahoek, outside King William’s Town, urged Sisulu to stand for the ANC presidency at the party’s December national conference. She did not decline the offer, but promised to return with an answer once she was formally nominated.
Veterans got a ‘raw deal’
Sisulu bemoaned the depth of denialism in the ANC, which had reached a point where even advice from party veterans was being rejected and the stalwarts were being insulted.
“I feel that we have clothed ourselves in a denialist mode even to people who wish us well, who are part of us,” she said.
“They [veterans] have a space to lead. They brought us here, they are our counsel. They have a right to say to us: ‘We don’t think you are going about it the right way.’
“They got a raw deal from people who felt they needed to protect certain individuals in the ANC.”
Sisulu said the ANC had allowed a certain populism within its ranks.
“There was a time when the ANC Youth League was indicating that it could have run the liberation struggle better than the veterans. I thought [this] was very unfortunate.
“I am still hoping that its members will have the humility to actually apologise because you don’t say that to our elders. They gave everything for what we have.”
Losing power in 2019
Commenting on proposals to discuss the state of the ANC and Zuma’s fate at the next NEC meeting, Sisulu said the stance should be that “whatever we do, the most important thing for us is to work out what is in the interest of the ANC”.
But she emphasised the need to act on the issues that people found “abhorrent”.
Sisulu said the ANC realised, after losing control of three metros in last year’s local government elections, that the damage was done and it had to do some introspection.
“We cannot now be finding ourselves in a situation where there are coalitions and we are in the opposition.
“Something has gone wrong somewhere, and we are trying to reconnect with our people on an ongoing basis.”
Her primary concern centres on the ANC losing the 2019 national elections. “My main concern is that we should not lose the vote. It had not occurred to many of us that we would lose the metros, but we did because the ANC does not belong to us,” she said.
“We hold it for the people who gave it to us. We hold it in trust for the next generation and we have no right to leave it less prominent and less effective than we found it.
“We found an extremely vibrant ANC when we came in. We have no right to give it over to the next generation with a besmirched mark of anything that we will regret.”
Asked about attempts to remove Zuma as ANC president, Sisulu said: “When we feel it is time for the president to step down, we will discuss it.
“But what we should all be asking ourselves is this question: Is this the opportune time to do that when we have a conference four months down the line?
“Would you consider it the most opportune time?”
Life in danger
Sisulu confirmed learning about threats on her life, saying she was still in the process of checking the accuracy of that information.
She said the fact that it was already public knowledge had an adverse effect on her and exposed her even more.
“All I can say is yes, I did get intelligence in June that my life was in danger. I need to ensure that the information I have is true.
“But at the same time, I am taking the necessary precautions to make sure that I am safe in whatever environment that I am in, because I do not want to take any chances.”
Asked why anyone would want her or any other leader dead, Sisulu said it was because of a misguided view held by some people, who imagined that they should protect “certain individuals in the organisation” against other people.
“I think this is just misguided people who believe that ‘any outspoken person, who does not speak in our language, is against us’.
“It is that kind of mentality that says: ‘If you are not with us, you are against us.’”
Outspoken ANC MP Makhosi Khoza is also said to have received death threats.
And a few weeks ago, a man pointed a gun at Solly Mapaila, the second deputy general secretary of the SA Communist Party (SACP), at an event to commemorate Chris Hani.
Sisulu said there were people who had infiltrated the ANC not for the organisation’s protection, but for their “own selfish acts”.
“The ANC has never needed protection from internal forces,” she said.
Worries over SA intelligence
Sisulu raised concerns about the state of the country’s security intelligence cluster, saying: “We need to go back to the drawing board.”
This comes on the back of claims by the SACP that there was a rogue intelligence unit within the official structure.
“I am a trained intelligence officer and I worry about the level of intelligence in this country,” she said.
“We need to make sure we have proper intelligence because then we would not have the SACP saying there is a rogue unit in the first place. We should be knowing and doing something about it,” she said.
“Some of the issues that are out there should not be out there in the public domain without us actually assessing them, analysing them and being assertive that what we are talking about is truthful.”
‘No Gupta or Marikana Skeletons’
The minister’s lobbyists say she serves as a necessary “disruptor” vis-à-vis the two main contenders in the ANC’s succession battle: Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma.
Sipiwo Venkile, the branch chairperson of ZK Mahabane – named after the ANC’s former president – did not mince his words in criticising Zuma’s leadership during the inaugural branch event at Keiskammahoek.
“We do not want thugs to lead us,” he said, to much applause.
Sisulu’s campaigners say her strength is that she is clean. “She has no skeleton of the Guptas. She has no skeletons of the Marikana massacre.”
However, on the list compiled by Sisulu’s team, Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma feature as deputy president and chairperson, respectively.
Two names appear in the position of secretary: Febe Potgieter-Gqubule or Joel Netshitenzhe.
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize has been touted alongside Free State Premier Ace Magashule for the position of deputy secretary-general and Jeff Radebe for treasurer.