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A visibly angry and fiery ANC secretary general Ace Magashule launched a not-so-veiled attack on former finance minister Trevor Manuel in which he accused Manuel of ill-discipline and of weakening the organisation by criticising him in public.
“When you talk about unity of the movement, don’t use memorial services of revolutionaries to attack other leaders. When you don’t attack other leaders, you are not a coward. You are a disciplined member of the movement …,” Magashule said.
Last week Manuel laid into Magashule for failing to restore Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s house in Brandfort where she was banished to by the apartheid regime between 1977 and 1986.
Money was allocated to the Free State government to restore the house as a museum, but years later it still stands derelict. Magashule stepped down as premier in March after he was elected secretary general of the party.
Manuel compared the project for the restoration of the Brandfort house to the controversial Estina project in the Free State, which was fast-tracked but which failed to empower the black farmers who were intended beneficiaries.
“This is the same premier who protests the approval for the Estina dairy, totalling some R220m in two weeks. This is the same former premier whose daughter is a beneficiary of a R130m housing contract, but now informs us that this minuscule project to restore the house to which our mother was banished has taken 11 years and can’t be done,” Manuel said at a memorial service in Cape Town.
The house has been a focal point since Madikizela-Mandela’s death on April 2.
But Magashule said criticism of other leaders should only be done in closed party meetings.
“Inside internal meetings of the ANC, we talk. We can criticise you but, when I attack and criticise another leader, I am weakening the movement and this is the culture we must understand – we must nurture it,” he said to a crowd that went into a frenzy as he spoke.
Magashule said no individual could be blamed for failing to honour Madikizela-Mandela. Instead the entire ANC should take the blame.
“You can’t blame any leader. In fact, if you have to blame anybody, you must blame the ANC because the ANC is not an organisation of individuals, it’s an organisation of a collective. When any individual fails, it is the organisation that fails.”
He discarded his prepared speech and spoke off the cuff.
Magashule also suggested that the ANC’s tradition was to honour leaders after their passing, as “people change”.
He also warned that the party risked losing the 2019 elections if it failed to rebuild and unite. He decried leaders who thought their positions made them powerful.
“Don’t think you are important and powerful. The only thing powerful is the ANC. You are nothing as an individual. That is why we must respect and renew this organisation,” Magashule said.
He lamented the gatekeeping plaguing the organisation and said it was killing the 106-year-old liberation movement.
Ironically, under his leadership as chairperson in the Free State, at least two provincial elective conferences that re-elected him to the position were nullified by the courts for the sidelining of members at branch level.
The ANC is hosting is official memorial service on Tuesday in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape, where Madikizela-Mandela was born.
It is expected to be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.