Click here to read the full letter RE: ANC Veterans
Former president Thabo Mbeki has written to President Jacob Zuma‚ pleading with him to have talks with the 101 African National Congress veterans who have publicly expressed concerns about his leadership and the direction the country is taking.
The veterans – who include Rivonia trialists Ahmed Kathrada and Andrew Mlangeni – last week expressed their frustration with the ANC head office team at Luthuli House‚ saying their attempts to speak to Zuma had been ignored and that secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s office showed no urgency in addressing their concerns.
They are currently speaking at a briefing in Johannesburg about their document titled “For the sake of our future”‚ which was originally sent to the president and five senior office bearers of the ANC.
Mbeki‚ who was out of the country when the veterans issued their statements last week‚ wrote to Zuma in his capacity as ANC president on Tuesday‚ appealing with him not to ignore the veterans.
Mbeki warned Zuma that it would be against the traditions of the ANC to ignore the veterans‚ as the party’s leadership had a long history of engaging dissatisfied members in the interest of resolving its political problems.
“As you‚ Comrade President‚ will have done‚ I have gone through the names of the 101 veterans who supported the press release in question. Like you‚ I have been struck by the reality that this collective of 101 veterans represents a very senior‚ outstanding and historic echelon of the leadership of the ANC and the national democratic revolution… It is made up of cadres of the ANC… whose involvement in our all-round struggle spans a period of over 60 years‚” Mbeki wrote.
“The point I am trying to emphasise is that it is imperative that all of us‚ including the current ANC NEC‚ (National Executive Committee) understand that the 101 veterans are in fact eminent leaders of our movement and revolution‚ and have to be respected and treated as such by those who occupy administrative positions as members of the NEC and other seniors structures of the ANC‚” Mbeki said in his tersely worded letter to Zuma.
“To put this matter frankly‚ which I know you will understand‚ it is perfectly obvious that very many among the 101 veterans are in fact eminently politically very senior to many who currently serve as members of the ANC NEC.”
In their statement last week‚ the veterans‚ who included former ANC deputy secretary-general Cheryl Carolus‚ Reverend Frank Chikane and former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala‚ expressed their support for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and warned that the trust between the ruling party and communities was “now severely under threat”.
At the time‚ Mantashe responded by saying the “veterans should help the process (of the ANC engaging with its supporters) and not sulk on the sidelines and criticise”.
Mbeki said in his letter that the veterans had “advanced extremely serious observations about the current situation…” and that ANC leaders‚ “with (Zuma) at the helm” must engage the 101 veterans “with all due seriousness”.
“These veterans have advanced extremely serious observations about the current situation as it relates to the ANC and the democratic revolution.
“All these are eminently political in nature and demand a political response. Accordingly‚ it is absolutely incorrect to respond to these observations by resort to administrative means.
“Administrative responses cannot solve political problems but can only serve to worsen the political crisis!‚ ” Mbeki wrote.
Mbeki’s spokesman‚ Mukoni Ratshitanga‚ confirmed that the former president had sent the letter. He declined to comment further.
Mantashe‚ who was copied in the letter‚ reacted angrily and sought to distance his office from Mbeki’s correspondence. He insisted that only Zuma’s office could speak on the matter as it had been addressed to the ANC President. “The letter is written to the president‚ Jacob Zuma. Why don’t you direct your enquiry to the office where letter is directed to. That is the person who will be the recipient of the letter and that’s where you must direct your letter‚” said Mantashe. “There’s nobody called Luthuli House…who is Luthuli House? That’s a building‚” he said.
Ironically on the very same day Mbeki wrote to Zuma‚ Mantashe told a group of journalists that those who were calling for the President to step down were now speaking to “his own conscience” and not necessarily to the ANC.