ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni sharply lambasted former president Thabo Mbeki for “speaking ill of the dead”.
In an interview with SABC television, Mbeki said that as the ANC leadership in exile, they regretted that they were not around to stop Madikizela-Mandela from doing “wrong things”. He cited her involvement with the controversial Mandela Football Club, and her statement that “match boxes” and “necklaces” would liberate the country.
Mbeki, who gave a historical context of Madikizela-Mandela’s fight against apartheid, said the leadership understood the “wrong things” she did were because of her passion for the freedom of black South Africans.
“I’m saying one would regret that because of the distance, the physical distance, because off the conditions at the time, we were not immediately around to ensure that she doesn’t do wrong things.”
Mbeki acknowledged that her legacy suffered with her involvement with the football club. “She was [a] very brave and courageous activist as opposed to a philosopher or theorist… She was not an observer who would think or theorise… Some of that activity would even verge on recklessness,” Mbeki said, while also praising her resilience. “Confined, detained, banned, banished, harassed by the apartheid security police, she refused to be intimidated.”
But an outraged Yengeni told journalists outside Madikizela-Mandela’s house the ANC was disappointed at Mbeki’s utterances as speaking ill of the dead was contrary to the African tradition.
“It is very unfortunate that Comrade Thabo found himself making such statements, because he is an elder, he should know better. Actually, I’m very angry about that, I will raise it when we meet,” Yengeni said.
The head of the ANC subcommittee on peace and security warned that all ANC members ought to be circumspect with public statements that did not help the party to move forward.
Earlier, Deputy President David Mabuza, who led a strong ANC NEC delegation to the Madikizela-Mandela house, said she was an “embodiment of the struggle, a bearer of scars for freedom, and a torch-bearer for our liberation”.
Mbeki’s office had not replied to queries by the time of going to print.