ANC stalwart and former treasurer-general Mathews Phosa has warned that unless President Jacob Zuma steps down, the ruling party could lose power or be forced into “huge coalitions” for the 2019 general elections.
Phosa told The Citizen that the ruling party, facing its worst crisis, was losing power fast.
“It has lost power dramatically at local government level,” Phosa said. “It will continue to lose power even at national level. The trust of the people that was built over 104 years has been lost.”
Speaking from his offices in Bryanston, Johannesburg, Phosa said the ANC was not benefiting from “the movie being shown now at leadership level”.
“It took effort, blood and sweat to build that trust, but it took very few years and reckless action to break it down,” Phosa said.
“It does not matter how much we scream or how often we say we have realised our faults. Restoring trust will not come from slogans.”
Commenting on the axe hanging over Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s head, Phosa said the Hawks boss, Major General Nthandazo “Berning” Ntlemeza, must “shut up” because the unit was not the National Prosecuting Authority.
“This whole exercise is very reckless and needs to be stopped,” he said.
Without mentioning names, Phosa said “looters are standing at the gates desperately waiting to loot national resources”.
“The agenda is to remove him and automatically remove his deputy and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chairperson Mcebisi Jonas,” Phosa said.
“Then they will have access to the resources in PIC – then go and buy banks, and fund their own deals.”
The state-owned PIC manages about R1.8 trillion in assets and invests funds on behalf of government’s entities.
“The reason why I called for Zuma to do the right thing was to protect the ANC and the constitution,” Phosa said. “Other comrades took a different view. But the price can be read in the local government elections outcome.”
ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Collen Maine yesterday said Zuma could not be singled out.
“Zuma is not the ANC,” Maine said. “The ANC is all of us.” Phosa gave an example of how the National Liberation Front (NLF) party in Algeria – received with open arms by its people as a liberator – lost power.
“They became arrogant, corrupt and listened less to the people,” Phosa said.
“Six years later, after independence, the NLF was blaming the French for every mistake in the country. They never took responsibility. The people outvoted them, rejected them and they lost power.
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“The ANC is going there very fast, unfortunately.”
The former Mpumalanga premier said the ANC needed to do a U-turn, listen to the people and fight corruption.
Phosa called on ANC leaders to go “back to the basics and rebuild the ANC at branch level”.
“You can go around the country as much as you want and listen to the stories of the people,” Phosa said. “But that is not going to change the character of the branches and the ANC. We need to face the fact that branches are corrupted and consist of questionable members. We need to clean up.”
He said the ANC must allow fresh leadership to emerge.
“The ANC must have a mixture of the old and new. We must never resist the youth from coming up to the top layer. We must always make room for young people to rejuvenate the organisation.”
He said “clean” branches must be allowed to debate who should be the next ANC president.
“We should not be told by the ANCYL or ANC Woman’s League (ANCWL). It is absolute arrogance of the highest order in the ANC to approach that question that way. Leadership must be the product of branch decisions.”
The ANCYL and ANCWL have openly called for a female president to succeed Zuma.
Phosa, however, commended the ANC branches in the Eastern Cape that reportedly called for Zuma to go on Sunday.
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“I salute and respect those branches for saying what they think,” Phosa said.
“Many of us have said exactly what they said. I think, with time, more people in the ANC will say that. It is the first time in the history of the ANC that the president has been told to go in that manner by its own members.”
Phosa lashed out at the ANCYL following its call for an ANC elective conference, saying it was “extremely un-ANC”.
“A call for an early conference and imposition of the leadership is contrary to the ANC constitution and principles. You can’t hold an ANC conference without discussion papers.”
But Maine said the issues Phosa had raised had been addressed in the ANC.
“We have thrown it in the debate and expect the comrades to debate about it,” Maine said.