Businessman and former foreign affairs director-general Sipho Pityana brazenly delivered a biting and yet unexpected message to African National Congress (ANC) leaders, particularly beleaguered President Jacob Zuma at Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile’s funeral on Thursday
The half-hour speech has been touted as a wake-up call to the governing party which is swirling in the mist of electoral defeats, pleas for fresh leadership to rescue it from decline, and the “elephant” in the room – Zuma’s continuing presence as head of state.
Here are the key highlights from Pityana’s speech and reflections on his last moments with his friend:
If Makhenkesi Stofile were still alive, he would want Zuma to leave office
Pityana said Stofile would have been pleased if President Zuma resigned. He asked the more than 10 000 mourners to push for a turning point for the ANC to rid itself of all its bad tendencies, including corruption and nepotism, so that it could return to its former glory.
Speaking to Talk Radio 702 on Friday morning, Pityana said he was saddened that the late ambassador to Germany “was going through his last days in life under a very aggressive cancer” nevertheless he “cried and cried bitterly about what is going on” in the ANC and country.
He told the radio station this disturbed him greatly because Stofile should have been focused on his health, but was instead concerned about his beloved organisation’s direction and future.
“…it really does invoke in one a sense of responsibility that those of us who love this country‚ those who love the ANC‚ have to get up and do something,” Pityana said, while defending his remarks at the funeral.
Watershed elections, as the ANC shed 8% voter support since coming to power in 1994
Referencing this month’s recently concluded local government elections, Pityana said a lack of accountable leadership was what had cost the ANC power in the key metros of Nelson Mandela Bay, the country’s administrative capital of Tshwane, and the economic hub of Johannesburg.
“That our movement is in crisis is trite and it is beyond question. If you doubted it, look at what happened in the local government elections,” he said.
‘Zuma failed to rise to the occasion’
“One of the conversations we had at the break of this year with some of [Stofile’s] trusted comrades was a very painful conversation. Soon thereafter, in April, we watched the constitutional judgment around the Nkandla saga.
“No less a person than our president of our movement and our country takes every opportunity to show nothing but disdain and contempt for our constitution,” he said to loud applause.
The ANC ceded the moral high ground to its opponents
“Our setbacks are self-inflicted. We say we are a party of the constitution … but many doubt it because we give them reason to.
“Which ANC is this without any conference resolution that makes statements that attack judges as counter-revolutionaries? Which ANC is this?”
Pityana also touched on chapter 9 institutions such as the public protector’s office, saying the governing party had undermined and shown complete disdain for constitutionally bound bodies.
He also said ANC cadres needed to be not only loyal but willing to ask “those difficult questions”.