The 107-year-old ANC increasingly becomes the playgrounds of individuals who bid for their own interest while serving in strategic positions of the organisation. In the aftermath of comments made by Senzo Mchunu on black professionals and to some degree as understood as supported by Pravin Gordhan, the minister of Public Enterprises, an official ANC statement on the subject matter was released this past Wednesday. Subsequent to this official ANC statement, a letter of complaint demanding an apology and retraction was issued by Gordhan to the Secretary-General. Following that Zizi Kodwa co-acting spokesperson issued an unreserved apology to Gordhan and Mchunu.
The current unfolding furore around statements and apologies emanates from last weekend news-reports attributed to Senzo Mchunu, former KZN Premier and now a Luthuli House insider. In a recording on questions on Eskom, Mchunu can be heard saying, among others, “but I can tell you one thing that we will regret calling some of our black managers as people of excellence, because what has happened in most of the parastatals, those people who were trusted that indeed that they indeed are black managers, we entrusted them, have proved to be fake. They became excellent in failure and in looting and in causing harm. We still have to have an appointment as a nation with them, where they have to face up as to what is it that happened…”
In response to Mchunu’s statements the ‘ANC Professional League’ an unofficial body comprising professionals that concerns itself with the advancement of black professionals, issued a statement condemning Mchunu’s comments and seeking a retraction. The unofficial league, equally did not spare Gordhan and lamented that the latter works for the annihilation of black professionals in the government and SOE sectors.
The ANC on Wednesday issued an official statement, conveyed by Dakota Legoete who along with Kodwa, acts jointly as responsible for ANC communications. The statement condemned the “attack on black professionals” as attributed to both Senzo Mchunu and Pravin Gordhan. The ANC statement as captured said, this was “neither warranted nor acceptable and goes against the grain of ANC policy”.
Subsequent to the Wednesday, issued statement, Gordhan wrote a letter addressed to the Secretary-General Ace Magashule which he also copied ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa. His letter of complaint demanded an apology and retraction of the Wednesday statement Subsequent to Gordhan’s letter, Zizi Kodwa than issued an unreserved apology. In Kodwa’s statement, he said, “The ANC – following a thorough investigation on statements attributed to both [Gordhan] and [Mchunu], has established that their remarks were taken out of context”. “The ANC extends an unreserved apology to both Cde Mchunu and Gordhan for its statement issued following these media reports” [sic]. He also said, “These two comrades… we are apologising about it now. We should have called them, they did not. We could have issued this statement much better which re-emphasised the ANC policy.”
When Legoete was asked on the Kodwa’s unreserved apology, he denied any knowledge of such a statement as issued by the ANC. Africa News 24-7 confirmed it is reliably known that the Secretary-General Magashule equally has no knowledge of the Kodwa statement as an official ANC position in response to Gordhan. Clearly, this set of contradictions in claims and counterclaims warrants engaging.
Some of us over a long period have been remonstrating the Secretary-General of the ANC, Ace Magashule warrants directing organisational communications and desists leaving it in the hands of spokespersons who often err while also may have an appetite to playing political games for their personal or group interest underscoring a divided ANC. We saw this when Pule Mabe as official spokesperson, by himself determined to have the SG field an ENCA instead of SABC interview first on the claim of a Sunday Times led story of a ‘secret meetings’ held between himself and other ANC leaders in among others the lobby of the Maharani Hotel. We have also seen how often Kodwa usurps this role from his past experience, often treating a struggling and truculent Pule Mabe with disdain, in literally speaking over him. Kodwa’s latest move to unilaterally issue an apology stands in that tradition of some arrogating a right to disrespect the SG and its office, responsible for communications. and openly prove factional in their conduct.
From the start, the idea of appointing two spokespersons to stand in for the suspended Mabe proved a recipe for confusion and powerplay in which factionalism became self-evident. Immediately two centres were created and it did not take rocket science to figure what and whose interest was at play. Hence the decision to appoint Kodwa and Legoete appeared to have been a compromise between opposing factions.
We learnt that Kodwa’s statement of apology, itself was a fake ANC statement since it was nowhere canvassed in the SGO office. The statement of apology as issued by Zizi Kodwa we are told came as total surprise to the Secretary-General Ace Magashule, as well as the co-spokesperson Dakota Legoete. There was no decision by the SGO office, to issue such an apology. On another level, Kodwa’s apology was an utter fabrication if not a blatant lie, he claims that there was an investigation that found that ‘Mchunu and Gordhan’s words were taken out of context”, he furthermore stated, “the ANC extends an unreserved apology to Mchunu and Gordhan. Since we know that the SG and the existing co- spokesperson Dakota Legoete have distanced themselves from the Kodwa apology, it can only be accepted Kodwa issued this apology in his personal capacity abusing the ANC office he temporarily occupies as acting co-spokesperson.
It is possible that Kodwa’s apology is the clearest sign that he at a personal level did not agree with the issued statement of the ANC that condemned Mchunu and Gordhan and was waiting for his chance to show that. On another level is it possible that Kodwa was merely vocalising the views of others in the ANC leadership? Was he perhaps instructed by another office, to issue the statement? Did Kodwa make this statement because he canvassed those in the ANC he is closely associated with? Let us not forget Ramaphosa for all intents and purposes guaranteed Kodwa, in promise a cabinet-post come May 9. Is Kodwa, therefore, acting in line with the promise? How is the communications responsibility and function served with this form of divided personal and factional interests at play?
Another confusing element of Kodwa’s apology is his fusing of the Mchunu statement and Gordhan’s letter. While we know of Gordhan’s letter we have not heard of any letter written demanding an apology from Mchunu. It becomes important to ask why Kodwa saw it fit to fuse these two individuals (Mchunu and Gordhan) when they need to be separated for demanded an apology from the ANC. Kodwa must, therefore, explain why his unilateral apology included Mchunu when the latter nowhere complained and or demanded a retraction.
Is it possible that the basis of Kodwa’s apology is his acceptance of a conviction of a factional ANC factional identity in which Mchunu and Gordhan may share the same group?
We can only surmise that Kodwa’s ‘ANC’ apology statement was in response to the official ANC statement issued in rebuke of Mchunu and Gordhan. There is little doubt that Zizi Kodwa the former communications person in the ANC is working his magic to usurp a department he used to occupy.
What then is to be done? Some are asking are there grounds for the SG to bring disciplinary charges against Kodwa for having brought the organisation in disrepute for having lied as to a fabricated investigation and its conclusions to extend an unreserved apology to Gordhan? The secretary general of the ANC must have much tighter control over the ANC communications and dissemination of information function of the ANC. That role must be clearly understood and communicated. It also needs a seasoned individual who can manage the dynamism of this office. In my assessment, Pule Mabe is battling to settle down in this key position and will continue to need support while occupying this position.
On Kodwa there is more than enough reason to bring disciplinary charges against Kodwa, for this act of breaching the communications function in blatantly lying and arrogating a right share his personal views as an ANC statement of apology. Yet, Kodwa is backed by the ANC president and may really be counting on that support to stave off any accounting for this gross misdemeanour.