The ANC’s top leadership moved to defuse tensions in the party’s parliamentary caucus this week, after ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu’s call for the national executive committee (NEC) to step down caused disquiet in some quarters.
Four ANC sources in Parliament independently told City Press that the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, used the opportunity while in Cape Town for the medium-term budget policy statement to meet party whips and chairs on Wednesday.
They informed them not to get involved in the matter and to leave it to the NEC.
The meeting was held two hours before the National Assembly hosted Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for his much-awaited mini budget speech.
“The meeting was not necessarily about Comrade Jackson, but it was to articulate the ANC’s priorities in Parliament,” said an ANC MP who attended the meeting.
The MP did not want to be named.
He said Mantashe and Duarte informed MPs that they had had a meeting with Mthembu and had engaged with him, and that they would also engage with those ANC members and structures who were issuing statements about Mthembu.
“This was to make sure that the centre holds … they also said there were things that we did in Parliament that were contrary to the ANC’s position or policy,” said the MP.
Two other sources confirmed this.
They also claimed that the caucus was receptive of Mthembu’s comments and the majority of members were fully behind him.
Another ANC source who attended the weekly caucus meeting on Thursday said only one MP had sought to sneak into the agenda a discussion of Mthembu’s comments, but was shouted down.
The intervention by Mantashe and Duarte came as MPs and senior ANC members were pondering whether to join the march on Wednesday in solidarity with Gordhan.
Opposition parties were also planning to gain mileage by marching against what they called elements of abuse of state institutions for political expediency.
A number of ANC leaders have already expressed their support for Gordhan in public, with the latest senior leader to stand up being former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala.
Some of these leaders will be joined by various business sectors that also expressed unwavering support for Gordhan.
Employer organisations on Friday called on their business affiliates to join the march on Wednesday to show solidarity with Gordhan as he appears in court on a charge of fraud.
The National Employers’ Association of SA also extended an invitation to employees of its business partners to join in the march in what could be described as unprecedented collaboration to beef up the number of supporters.
“We have not received any request from the employees; if they want to go, they can go and join the march … Yes, we as officials, we do support the march,” said Gerhard Papenfus, CEO of the association.
In an open letter to Gordhan sent to City Press on Friday, the organisation said:
“It is seldom that, within the context of a country, so much depends on one man. South Africa finds itself at such a point in its history and you, minister, are that man.”
The association said that, before submitting the letter to Gordhan, it ran the issue of support for him past its circle of influence.
Within a few days, more than 15 000 businesses and individuals expressed support for the minister, saying they would do whatever was within their means to hold his “hands up high”.
Magnetia Brown of the Road Freight Employers’ Association said it would be up to each company to decide whether or not to let its employees join the march.
“As a body, I do not have much to say. I cannot say yes or no regarding this march.
“The principles of no work, no pay will apply to that [if employees joined the march without the employer’s permission],” said Brown.[Source: News24]