For the first time, division within South Africa’s liberation movement that came in power in 1994 after leading the struggle to end Apartheid have been played out in the open.
Scuffles that broke out between members of rival factions of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party on Monday (5 September) have highlighted the deep divisions running within President Jacob Zuma’s governing party.
Members of #OccupyLuthuliHouse movement, who blame embattled Zuma and other senior ANC members for the party’s worst electoral defeat last month, vowed to protest outside the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday (5 September).
The ANC suffered its biggest election setback since taking power at the end of Apartheid, 22 years ago, after losing the major metropolitan area of the country that includes the country’s capital city of Pretoria.
The protesters argue Zuma’s leadership is largely to blame for the poor recent local election results and the country’s soaring economic woes.
Unemployment and corruption scandals have surrounded Zuma’s term, tarnishing the ANC’s image in recent months. According to experts, the ANC’s urban vote had collapsed drastically with black middle and working classes turning their allegiance to the DA after being tired of ANC failing to deliver on promises.
Plans to descend on the ANC’s headquarters, known as the Luthuli House, were initially cancelled because of heavy police presence, but demonstrators said they would instead hand a petition against how the governing party is run to the ANC leadership.
‘Need a leadership who doesn’t promote corruption’
Police surrounded Luthuli House as a small group of about 20 anti-Zuma demonstrators vowed to occupy the building. “We lost (control of some cities in the local elections) because of corruption of Jacob Zuma,” Mary Louw, an ANC member who was protesting against Zuma’s leadership, told AFP news agency. “We need a leadership who doesn’t promote corruption.”
The #OccupyLuthuliHouse group, which was founded by the chairperson of the ANC’s Sefako Makgatho branch, Sasabona Manganye, were outnumbered by other ANC members loyal to the president.
Zuma’s supporters who pledged to defend the building – #DefendLuthuliHouse – are members of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), and turned up outside the party’s headquarters dressed in military camouflage uniforms.
The veterans tried to prevent Manganye’s group to hand over a memorandum asking for the resignation of both ANC president Zuma and his national executive committee (NEC), to the secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Gwede Mantashe: ‘There must be no bloodshed’
After two hours of standoff, Mantashe emerged from the building to receive the memorandum while veterans pushed to prevent #OccupyLuthuliHouse from handing the letter over to him. He asked the MK veterans, who had formed a human shield, not to give “hooligans” free publicity.
“Don’t do something that will give them publicity,” Mantashe said. “There must be no bloodshed, you have done what you were supposed to do (defend the ANC).”
When she interviewed the “MK vets” about why they they acted violently, journalist Nomsa Maseko, meanwhile, said one answered: “I’ve been trained to kill 50 people a day and I’ll shoot them all.”
The veterans’ leader, Kebby Maphatsoe, meanwhile, said that the veterans who were defending the building were following orders given by Zuma in 2012, according to News24.
“In 2012 during our conference in Bisho, President Jacob Zuma gave MKMVA the battle orders, and one of those orders was to protect the black, green and gold [the ANC] at all costs,” he is quoted as saying. “We are implementing those instructions by the president, at all times military veterans will be at the forefront of the defending the ANC and its leadership.”