ANC presidential contender Lindiwe Sisulu has called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign for not representing the party’s ideals.
In an interview with City Press, Sisulu openly accused Ramaphosa of having secured the party’s presidency in 2017 through “money, manipulation and misrepresentation, aided and abetted by external forces on a level not previously experienced in the ANC”.
Q. How do you feel about your campaign and what it will yield?
I wouldn’t say that I ran a campaign in the conventional sense of the word. In the ANC, we don’t campaign for positions or, at least, we shouldn’t. It is our membership in the branches who nominate candidates.
So, I think the more appropriate term, in my case, is that [I conducted] a ‘consultation and conversation tour’. I travelled the length and breadth of our country, meeting and listening intently to branch members in our villages, towns and cities.
In many instances, they expressed a desire for me to play a leading role in rebuilding and restoring our party to its founding principles and purpose.
I also consulted with my colleagues in the ANC, particularly my sisters in the women’s league, whose advice I value and whose support I am grateful to count on.
Should branch members entrust me with their vote and confidence at our upcoming conference and I am elected, I am ready to accept the honour to lead and continue to serve my party and our country.
Q. What do you say to the criticism that those challenging the president are disingenuous, as they have been leading with him? And the claim that he is leading a party which has been divided and factionalised since 2017?
Let me begin by saying that factionalism is common in politics and political parties worldwide. It’s the interplay of actors and ideas competing for influence over the direction a party takes on a range of policies and issues. That is normal in any democratic body. The ANC is no different.
So, the notion that factionalism represents something undemocratic, even nefarious, is part of a narrative cultivated and pushed by some sections of the mainstream media to demonise the ANC.
I will not deny that factionalism has been more vocal and divisive in the ANC in recent years. More so since 2017 because there has been unwillingness to enact several critical resolutions adopted at that conference.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in attempts to muzzle or alienate dissenting voices.
Q. You have been open about the need for a change of leadership within the party under Ramaphosa; what is it that has made you as open as you are about your discontent?
In the history of the ANC, the party has been blessed with impeccable commitment, character and integrity, and committed to fostering unity, and rejecting impunity and intimidation. Regrettably, President Ramaphosa exhibits none of the above.
His rise to ANC presidency in 2017 was a result of a combination of money, manipulation and misrepresentation, aided and abetted by external forces on a level not previously experienced in the ANC.
His application to court to seal the CR17 funds was a cover-up and still casts a dark shadow over the integrity of the outcomes of the conference.
His failure to come clean on the Marikana massacre and to apologise where an apology is due is a blot on his character, and casts a shadow on the ANC.
And, of course, the ongoing Phala Phala affair continues to put the ANC and the country in bad light.
The assessment of leadership with the president as the head sees a dysfunctional ANC in all regards. Under this leadership, the ANC has disbanded all its leagues which represent an essential aspect of its ongoing existence. The organisation finds itself in the intensive care unit.
We are unable to honour basic employment contracts with staff and workers, and we are nonchalant about it, even arrogant in our failure to care. South Africa has become the laughing stock of the world.
These developments occasioned my discontent and, for the sake of the ANC and our country, the president must do the honourable thing and resign.
It is my conviction that everything stands and falls with leadership.
Q. As one of the longest-serving members of both the ANC national executive committee and Cabinet, what do you say to those who question your promise to change the fortunes of the party if you occupy its presidency, as you have a share in its successes and failures organisationally and in government?
I admit that I have served in every ANC administration, either as deputy minister or minister, since 1994. I am proud to have been called on by my party to contribute. And my records are impeccable and second to none.
But a minister serves at the pleasure of the president. My greatest regret remains that I have never had the opportunity to fully execute the policies I have initiated in all the line portfolios I have served – because I was always reshuffled.
At the ministry of intelligence, just as I had set in the systems and policies to create a new generation of intelligence practitioners, I was moved suddenly, with no reason given.
A similar situation happened at the ministry of defence. I was the first minister to expand the defence portfolio to include veterans’ affairs. There, again, just as we were about to enter into the implementation stage, I was reshuffled to a different portfolio.
My term at the international relations and cooperation department followed a similar path. Once I began to implement ANC conference resolutions regarding how South Africa is viewed by the outside world, I was hung out to dry and unceremoniously moved to a new portfolio, with no reason, after there were complaints from certain sections of the public.
I recount these examples to demonstrate that, as an ANC minister in an ANC administration, you still have limitations and clearly serve at the pleasure and whims of the president.
In essence, performance is less a factor in how long one stays in a portfolio.
Q. What do you think the governing party should be focusing on after its elective conference to avoid the predicted loss of majority support in 2024?
Let me paraphrase Mark Twain and say that “rumours of the ANC’s death have been greatly exaggerated”. It is a narrative that has been doing the rounds, driven by sections of the mainstream media, bots on social media and political analyst quacks. It has become part of political folklore in South Africa.
I concede that our performances in the national, provincial and local elections were far from our best. But I believe that, under a new leadership with more understanding of the conditions and expectations of fellow citizens, a leadership that is uncompromising on service delivery and governance, we will be able to reverse our setbacks.
Q. Ahead of the conference, many candidates and their slates have been endorsed by provincial blocs. You are among those who have not received this kind of endorsement. Does it worry you that you are on the back foot compared with other contenders?
I am not in the least worried. These provincial endorsements are mere intentions of the leadership of provincial executive committees. They do not reflect the overall voting patterns of branch delegates. I can tell you I have been nominated by a pretty good number of branch general meetings to stand as my party’s president.
Don’t let it escape you that I have been endorsed by eight provincial heads of ANC Women’s League and the immediate past president of the league, comrade Bathabile Dlamini.
In any case, what matters most is what happens at the elective conference floor. ANC branch members are not naïve or ignorant of the challenges facing the party and the country.
Believe me, conference delegates will vote with their conscience and the results will surprise many. My fate will be decided at the conference floor and not by the media or money.
As I said elsewhere, the campaign for leadership positions within the ANC has been so monetised since 2017 that the movement is losing its soul and ideals.
Q. It is understood that you are in communication with other candidates, including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Zweli Mkhize, with the hope of finding one another ahead of the conference. What are your main priorities as part of this consolidation of preferences?
In the main, both Mkhize and Dlamini-Zuma are my comrades and are capable of serving our movement well. I have known them for years and they are decent and loyal colleagues.
Yes, our campaign teams have been meeting to mount a joint agenda to redeem the declining fortune of our party and country.
We are not enemies, I just have a different vision for my country and the ANC.