A humiliating, selfish and failed leader who has no business holding public office. This is how renowned businessman and academic Sipho Pityana described Jacob Zuma as he called on the president to step down and save the ANC and South Africa from destruction.
Speaking at former Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi Stofile’s funeral, at the University of Fort Hare in Alice yesterday, Pityana told the capacity crowd in the 5 000-seat sports complex, he was disappointed Zuma was not present to listen to him.
Zuma was in Nairobi, Kenya, for the sixth summit of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
If Zuma had been at the funeral, Pityana said, “I would have asked him as my leader . . . begged him, pleaded with him, and said: ‘My big brother hand over the reins, it is critical’.
“The next battle cannot be led by a leader who has humiliated our organisation and undermined everything that we represent,” he said.
Pityana said Stofile had been disappointed by Zuma’s leadership.
“Let Stofile’s cry for the restoration of our movement to its former glory not be in vain.”
Stofile’s death came days after the ANC suffered a humiliating loss of support in key municipalities including Nelson Mandela Bay, where Stofile was actively involved in politics as a student.
“Our setbacks are self-inflicted. We’ve ceded our moral high ground to our opponents,” Pityana said.
“We say we are a party for the constitution . . . but many doubt it because we give them reason. “No less a person than the president of the countr y takes every opportunity to show nothing but disdain for the constitution.”
He referred to Zuma’s controversial R200-million Nkandla home, saying it was an extravaganza and that Stofile’s home was a “humble abode . . . not a palace in a sea of poverty”.
Stofile had respected the laws and the courts of the country, Pityana said, recalling how Stofile was accused of possible corruption and decided to take the report on judicial review – with a high court clearing him.
“That’s what you do when you respect public office . . . you don’t, when you’re called account, plunge parliament into chaos . . . plunge constitutional bodies like the public protector into enemies of the people when they are not. “When the Constitutional Court makes a finding that you broke your oath of office, what it means is that you are honourable no longer . . . it means you are untrustworthy,” Pityana said.
He said it had taken Archbishop Desmond Tutu to say, “you do not represent me”, but everyone else was keeping quiet while the ANC was losing its founding principles.
“Our movement is captured and the state is captured,” Pityana said.
“The revolutionary movement is under threat. “Under this leadership what we have experienced is a cataclysmic anticlimax . . . what we are seeing is unmitigated chaos . . . it’s time for new leadership,” he said.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who spoke after Pityana, said the ANC leadership should have gone beyond taking collective responsibility for the party’s failures in the recent elections.
“We should have taken personal and individual responsibility. “I do take individual responsibility. This is a moment not only to take the pulse of our movement but to listen to what our people are saying. “Comrade Pityana . . . we have heard you,” Ramaphosa said.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said: “People who spoke here, very critical of the ANC and the leadership, are expressing the view of comrade Stof, and therefore my duty is to take that message and convey to the broader leadership of the ANC, without diluting it.
“Many of the things they said we can’t dispute. Many of the things said are for us to accept and take responsibility and I think [Ramaphosa] accepted responsibility on behalf of many of us.”
Asked if he was shocked to hear such views on the ANC, Mantashe said: “No . . . That’s why I stayed on and listened very carefully. “What is important here is that you get people who have analytical capabilities giving context of all the [challenges] because when you are the secretary-general, you get these messages through SMS, others phone you.
“Others just insult you and say nothing much. But today the benefit was that [many explained] where themessages are coming from and we must accept that.” Asked if he accepted that ANC members were angry at the leadership, Mantashe said: “Yes, the leadership must take responsibility”.
Ramaphosa also warned the Hawks not to destabilise the country as he pledged support for embattled Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who faces possible arrest by the unit.
Gordhan was among the dignitaries present – including former president Kgalema Motlanthe, government ministers and ANC leaders.
He was meant to meet the Hawks yesterday, after they sent him a letter asking him to present himself at their Pretoria offices for a warning – an indication of imminent arrest or a criminal charge.
But Gordhan said he would not attend the meeting.
Ramaphosa said: “I have confidence in the minister of finance. Whatever the agencies of government must do, they must do it in a way that does not disturb our economy. “That does not demonstrate to our people that we are not a government that is at war with itself,” he said.