ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe appears to have warned new Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela against being dictated to by her predecessor, Ace Magashule.
Ntombela, who was the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs before her rise to the premiership of the province last month, has been slammed by Magashule’s critics who claim the former premier will rule the Free State from Luthuli House following his election as the ANC’s secretary-general in December.
Speaking on Monday at a memorial service in Brandfort to honour struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mantashe in a thinly veiled warning to Ntombela said some people perceived her as Magashule’s subordinate and ready to take orders from him.
“I can tell you now, nobody can say this, but I can say it. When we look at her, she is a conduit of Ace. She is a dwarf that will be told through the phone from Luthuli House do this,” Mantashe said.
“Now if we are going to celebrate Winnie, you must [Ntombela] assert yourself. You must lead. If that doesn’t happen, we are not celebrating Winnie.”
According to a City Press report last month, Ntombela’s closeness to Magashule has sparked the belief by some in the province that the two are cut from the same cloth, but she has denied talk that Magashule had a hand in her promotion and had asked to be given a chance in her new post.
It is also alleged it was with the backing of Bathabile Dlamini – the president of the ANC Women’s League – that Ntombela got to be promoted as well.
‘We can’t celebrate Winnie when we are divided’
Mantashe called for unity in the governing party ahead of next year’s general elections as he did at the weekend during the launch of the “Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela volunteers brigade” at Seraleng, near Rustenburg, in North West.
“We can’t celebrate Winnie when we are divided. If we are CR [Cyril Ramaphosa] and NDZ [Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma], we are far from it,” he said.
“When you are sitting on the side of CR and NDZ, you are neither representing Cyril and Nkosazana, you are representing factions. We must fight factionalism wherever it manifests itself so that we can have a strong ANC.”
The ANC divisions in Free State have recently resurfaced over the composition of the expanded provincial task team (PTT), appointed earlier this year, to oversee fresh elections, following a ruling by the Bloemfontein High Court on December 15, which set aside the provincial elective conference and its resolutions.
The PTT has been criticised by ANC veterans and disgruntled branches, who have labelled it factional, and say it is dominated by Magashule’s allies, who were part of the provincial executive committee that was disbanded by the court.
Mantashe said in memory of Madikizela-Mandela, the ANC should set the example by having a party free of corruption, that has clean governance and doesn’t give up its responsibility of government.