Note this article has been updated with a headline change.
In a tweet on Saturday, controversial former ANC national executive committee member Carl Niehaus shared images of a supposedly sparsely filled Tafel-Lager Park stadium in Kimberley as evidence that the popularity of the party may be on the wane.
This came ahead of a no-holds barred column about the moral slide of the ANC into open debauchery and crass materialism.
On Saturday, he already claimed that was speaking as “a loyal, but very concerned member of the ANC”, but just expressing concern about the future of the ANC.
“Where were our people? This was the smallest crowd I have ever seen at a January 8 rally, and their response was so muted.
“The writing is on the wall, we better get our act together quickly before it is too late.” He even added a crying emoji for good measure.
The Citizen attended the celebrations and most of the stands were reasonably full, though it was the crowd on the field that looked more sparse.
Others claimed that the stadium did fill up, but only after the ANC managed to pick people up in buses in the area. Niehaus’ photos may therefore have been taken and shared before the stadium was full.
The ANC’s Northern Cape leader, Zamani Saul, much later shared pictures of his own that showed the stands quite full. The ANC’s head of elections, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, retweeted Saul’s photos.
Mbalula had further claimed on Saturday that there were 25,000 people in attendance. The Citizen’s photographer, Nigel Sibanda, attended the event and said the stadium attendance was a bit sparse in places and he questioned the accuracy of the 25,000 claim.
Niehaus was at the forefront of the campaign to get Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected as the president of the ANC in 2017. She lost out narrowly to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who led the ANC to a 58% national majority in last year’s elections.
While many analysts credited him with keeping the ANC in charge after a tumultuous and scandalous decade under Jacob Zuma, he nevertheless suffered a drop from 62% for the party five years earlier.
The ANC’s senior members, including Ramaphosa, criss-crossed Kimberley in the build-up to the rally in the hopes of ensuring a strong turnout.
Niehaus was possibly sharing his tweet as a thinly veiled dig at Ramaphosa’s leadership and popularity. He has, however, subsequently denied this, claiming that he wants a “principled unity” in the ANC, not factionalism, in order to address the “real demands and needs of the people”.
Many on Twitter used Niehaus’ tweet as an excuse to lambaste the ruling party and Niehaus himself, who is strongly associated with the “radical economic transformation” faction in the ANC.
However, when Niehaus wrote his column published by IOL on Sunday, his criticism of the ANC was even more scathing.
He, among many other gripes, criticised a young ANC member for wearing expensive fashion labels during the January 8 celebrations: “Gucci belt, Louis Vuitton sneakers, Emelio Zegna shirt, True Religion jeans, Tom Ford sunglasses … I could not help but wonder what brand his underwear was, and if there was a way to display that too, I had no doubt that he certainly would have done so. He was wearing all these expensive branded clothes like badges of honour. They were telling everyone, who even bothered to give him a fleeting glimpse, ‘I have arrived’. The question of course is, arrived where and to what?”
The young man appeared to think politics and business were the same thing.
He said young people such as this personified “the vulgarity of the death of ideology in our beloved Movement”.
“Conspicuous consumption, and straight down debauchery have become the order of the day for much of these celebrations.”
He touched on the fact that “young women, who were not even been born in 1994, are in their numbers given VIP accreditation”.
“Once again, most of them, if they are asked any questions about the history and policies of the ANC would be floored. They have no interest in the ANC, except for what they will receive from the ANC men who arrange their VIP access accreditation.
“Among the accreditation staff they are talked about as ‘leadership stock’, who must be accredited at every cost. I have seen what that cost is in the crestfallen devastated face of a veteran, and ex-Robben Island prisoner, who was brutally pushed away by security staff and blocked from entering a VIP lounge, while a ‘pretty young thing’, waving her VIP accreditation, breezed past … young women are literally bussed in to be abused and to satisfy the sexual appetites of lecherous so-called ‘comrades’.”
He alleged that he ANC was “literally being prostituted”.
Niehaus has denied that he only become openly critical of the ANC once Ramaphosa was in charge.
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)