They Want to Topple Me - Mbeki
President Thabo Mbeki says a group of people is plotting to topple him as president of the ANC and the country. In his closing remarks yesterday to the ANC's national executive committee, Mbeki said the group was using the name of party deputy president Jacob Zuma as a rallying point for its activities.
But he was confident Zuma was not behind the plot.
Mbeki's remarks, which were confirmed by two independent sources, are an indication that he is feeling alienated and an acknowledgment of the cacophonous power of Zuma's supporters, who have mounted anti-Mbeki demonstrations and posted insults aimed at the president on the Friends of Zuma website.
Anti-Mbeki sentiments are also growing in the ranks of the ANC's alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP, as well as the ANC Youth League.
Alliance leaders insist the Zuma saga is a symptom, not a cause, of the ANC's problems.
Ironically, Zuma believes a faction in the ANC is using state resources to trump up criminal cases against him that could bar him from becoming the next president.
Mbeki cited pro-Zuma protests and media columns as examples of attempts to undermine him.
He said the group plotting against him presented Zuma as a pro-worker leader, while he (Mbeki) was demonised as being non-progressive.
For the first time since the beginning of the succession battle between him and his deputy, Mbeki said he was confident Zuma was not behind this plot.
Zuma was not present at the meeting yesterday as he had asked to be recused when NEC members started discussing the impact of his rape trial on the image of the organisation, an issue debated by - among others - Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi.
The president commands majority support in the NEC, which is largely made up of cabinet ministers, premiers, mayors and government bureaucrats, with a few pro-Zuma sympathisers.
Mbeki's remarks follow a week of insistent pounding by Cosatu and the SACP, accusing his leadership of taking the country towards a dictatorship and a dominant presidency that undermines parliament and the ANC.
The National Union of Mineworkers - the largest union in Cosatu - had resolved on Saturday night that the SACP should fight elections on its own - pending further discussions - given the ANC's leadership problems, union spokesman Moferefere Lekorotsoane said yesterday.
The ANC, the presidency and other structures did not respond to the unprecedented personal attacks on Mbeki throughout the week.
Mbeki told NEC members that he had been insulted and attacked without anyone coming to his defence, whereas Zuma was often defended.
During the meeting, several NEC members, including Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, tried to exercise damage control by harshly criticising the alliance for reducing debates to personal attacks. But it was agreed that the ANC would engage alliance partners, especially the SACP, on this issue.
The NUM, the SACP and Cosatu also questioned the president's suggestion that he should be succeeded by a woman, saying this was a ploy to exclude Zuma from the succession race.
But Mbeki said yesterday that he had been misquoted and had merely been reiterating ANC policy on gender equity.
He asked the NEC to confront these problems and explain to branches that he was under siege.
With acknowledgement to Moshoeshoe Monare and Cape Argus.