Veterans split on ‘summit’

TNA Reporters, The New Age, Johannesburg, 18 November 2016

A meeting between the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) and disgruntled
senior veterans on Monday is set for a no-holds barred confronta-tion.

A flurry of emails between a group of ANC stalwarts and veterans showed that
the trust deficit between themselves and the ruling party’s leadership has
reached a point of no return.

The New Age can also reveal the NWC, to be led by President Jacob Zuma, will
adopt a conciliatory approach.

Fazel Randera

The emails between the veterans and “For the sake our future” coordinator
Fazel Randera also reveals that they were in disarray over their strategic
approach to the meeting.

A meeting of the veterans group in Parktown, Johannesburg, yesterday sought
to finalise the size of their del-egation and the strategic approach to the
meeting.

Denis Goldberg

Former Rivonia trialist Denis Gold-berg expressed misgivings about ANC
secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s dealings with the group.

“My sentiment remains that the SG is still playing games. His remarks on tv
(sic) do not express any sincerity that he as the day-to-day leader is
really pre-pared to engage with us,” Goldberg said.

He also implored his comrades to reject a meeting with the NWC and to insist
on meeting with President Jacob Zuma.

“I am not sure that we should accept when the offer to meet is formally
made. Our demand was to meet with the presi-dent of the ANC.

“Comrades, we cannot permit people we do not trust to draw us into giving
them time to wriggle out from under the cloud of disrepute and distrust they
have created,” Goldberg said.

He was also scathing of Mantashe’s and other ANC leaders’ defence of Zuma
and called for them to step down or retire.

Sheila Sisulu

Another stalwart, Sheila Sisulu, expressed her doubts about whether a
meeting with the NWC would yield results or whether the NWC could be
trusted.

She said: “Trevor (Manuel) is indeed spot on. I counted five, maybe six out
of the 30 or so people with whom a delega-tion of veterans can have a decent
and meaningful dialogue.

“The delegation should anticipate a defensive, diversionary, if not an
aggres-sive reception from some who may be selected to represent the NWC.
For this reason the veterans delegation must include the most senior in the
group even if this makes the delegation a little big.”

Trevor Manuel

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel and a leader of the veterans group is
adamant that a meeting with the NWC will not serve any purpose and insists
on meeting with the top six only.

“I’m afraid that I do not share the enthusiasm of some comrades for a
meeting with the NWC. Judging by the letter from the SG and some of his
pronouncements since, there is likely to be a measure of hostility to the
very existence of a group such as ourselves.

“The challenge with the NWC is that it comprises 36 individuals who exist as
the core of Zuma supporters in the NEC. I accept that there are a handful
who may be of a different persuasion, but the largest grouping would feel
under attack, especially by a grouping such as ourselves.

“So I don’t have a feeling that this is an opportunity to have a mature
politi-cal discussion about the fact that the present leadership have led
the ANC, a movement that we cherish, astray. Rather it is likely to be an
opportunity for the ’empty vessels’ to be shouted at, for not understanding
the ‘ANC cul-ture’,” Manuel said.

Aziz Pahad

Underscoring the differences in opin-ion over their approach to the meeting
is the advice of former senior ANC leader Aziz Pahad.

He urged the veterans to exercise caution and proposed that an analyti-cal
rather than an emotional approach be adopted.

“Is it not the task of our group to more analytically look at the causes of
the crisis in the ANC and its allies and give some guidance on how to
achieve the organisational and leadership renewal,” Pahad said.

He was also dismissive of the veterans’ proposed demands to the ANC.

“In the present form, the draft does not add much to the many open letters
already sent to the leadership,” Pahad said.

“Even the election “shock” has failed to get any serious response from the
NEC and the Cabinet legotla (sic) or from the SACP or COSATU. The call for a
consultative conference is not new.”

Tellingly, Pahad is also at variance with the veterans call for the
leadership to quit and questions the objectives of the veterans. “What does
our group represent? Can we realistically hope to achieve the objectives we
have identified?

“A consultative conference, organised by veterans to be preceded by the
leadership taking collective responsibility, is the logical conclusion of
this, not that they must resign. In the unlikely event that they resign,
will the organisation be on auto pilot?

“The decision of the NWC to set up a delegation to meet a delegation of the
veterans group was very important and must be utilised to its maximum,”
Pahad said.

Reinforcing the tensions between the ANC leadership and the veterans, Pahad
said: “The delegation must appreciate that it will be dealing with factions
and not a united collective leadership. I don’t expect the meeting to be
comradely or friendly. However miracles do happen.”

In response to differences on strategy in the veterans group, Pahad said:
“We must recognise that within our group there are tactical differences and
some of our members wearing other hats reflect policies that are not
reflected in our letter (to Mantashe).

“My understanding is that despite tactical differences our group exists
because we are concerned about the serious challenges facing the collective
of our leadership, our organisation and the country.

“I believe that the ANC specifically and the alliance collectively cannot
self-correct because ‘everybody has a skeleton in his/her cupboard’ and
there is a lack of quality leadership with the capacity to lead the movement
out of the crisis. Tactical differences must under no circumstances divide
us.”

Barbara Masekela

Another veteran, Barbara Masekela, also cautioned against an emotional
approach to the meeting.

“I do think we need to think through in much more detail how we would
facilitate a consultative conference as I can foresee us being easily
rendered ineffectual through co-option to existing structures for organising
conferences.

“Frankly, I do not think a meeting with the president would have yielded
results. Clearly JZ did not want to meet with us and this is some sort of
compromise or they want to smoke out the ringleaders,” she said.

Masekela was also dismissive of the meeting producing any results.

“My expectations? That we will be lectured on the customary rules of
engagement with leadership, browbeaten over perceived indiscipline and an
attempt will be made for us to work within the fold with not much said about
the actual reasons for the decline of the ANC.”

Alec Erwin

Another former cabinet minister Alec Erwin also hinted that ill discipline
among the veterans group could harm their cause. He was referring to last
week’s no confidence motion where Randera and Mavuso Msimang called for ANC
MPs to “vote with their conscience”.

Erwin said: “I agree with Frank (Chikane) the fact that the NWC has now
agreed to meet means that we are making progress. I think that this is
mainly because the group is manifestly serious and that the case was well
made by the former president’s input.

“I think that we should capitalise on this by retaining a high degree of
coherence and discipline. If comrades want to open new fronts like that on
the vote in Parliament then they should do it in their own name and not on
behalf of the 101.

“We have enough chaos as it is and we can only be credible if we revert to
the discipline of the past and decisions based on reasoned discussion
amongst us.

“By agreeing to meet them we also cut away to a degree their argument that
we are ’empty vessels’ baying from outside since they will have agreed to
engage us.”

Mavuso Msimang

Wankie veteran Mavuso Msimang was insistent that the veterans call for a
consultative conference was nonnegotiable.

“Going back to Trevor Manuel’s email, my understanding was always that the
‘101’ requested a meeting with the leadership in order to discuss/inform
them about the content and timing of the planned consultative conference.

“The hope, I thought, was to ensure that the leadership would appreciate the
stalwarts’ initiative as described in its statement, and support it. The
holding of the consultative conference would nevertheless not be subject to,
or conditional on, their approval.”

Welile Nhlapo

Welile Nhlapo, former advisor to Zuma, also cautioned against acting
hastily.

“I agree that the thrust of statement should be directed to our
acknowledgement of the NWC response to our request. And pledge our intention
to have an honest and Frank discussion about the issues/concerns raised in
our initial statement.

“We should avoid a media debate with Luthuli House. Ours is to prepare for
the meeting thoroughly. I also believe that it is too early to issue a
public invitation for more comrades to join. Let them do it on their own.
Otherwise we run the risk of being misunderstood to advocating for a
parallel structure to the veterans league which we should strive to revive
and strengthen.

Monday meeting

Commenting on the veterans’ email conversations, ANC deputy
secretary-general Jessie Duarte said that the NWC respected the views of the
veterans and was not looking for a confrontation when they meet on Monday.
“The NEC has conducted an extensive analysis of the current problems. We
have now moved on to fixing these problems,” Duarte said.

“When we meet with the veterans we are looking forward to their own analysis
of the situation. We don’t want an antagonistic debate. Based on our joint
analysis, we must seek joint solutions.”

A coordinator of the veterans group, Fazel Randera, confirmed to The New Age
that they convened yesterday to prepare for the NWC meeting.

He said the party stalwarts wanted to get the broad views of the 101
signatories of an open letter by ANC stalwarts to Zuma on a way forward.

“We called it a preparatory meeting. We want to get the views of the people
who put their names on the document so that when we meet, we express the
views of the people,” he said.

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