Bheki Cele. Picture: MARK WEST/THE HERALD
Bheki Cele. Picture: MARK WEST/THE HERALD

Deputy Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Bheki Cele had his gloves off again in an address at the ANC’s cadre forum in Gamalakhe township, outside Port Shepstone on Monday evening.

Cele, an ANC national executive committee member, slammed the controversial Gupta family, accusing them of owning some ANC leaders and preventing them from fulfilling the mandate given to the ANC by the people of SA to govern the country.

"The Guptas must allow the African National Congress to do its work without any hindrance. They must not be allowed to hijack the ANC and the government.

"The Guptas must leave this country and take their friends with them so that the ANC will be left to govern SA alone," a fiery Cele said.

He received wild roars as he took the podium on Monday.

Cele reiterated his statement that ANC leadership had failed to lead the organisation.

KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC’s biggest province, is deeply divided.

Earlier this month the ANC provincial executive committee stripped the Lower South Coast region of its powers, reportedly because of their support for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed President Jacob Zuma as party leader.

Crowds chanted songs in support of Ramaphosa at the packed hall on Monday night.

He was due to address the crowd but was stuck at a closed meeting between the party’s national working committee and the regional executive committee to discuss the region’s appeal to have the provincial executive committee’s decision overturned.

Cele spoke in Ramaphosa’s stead.

Last week Cele took flak from ANC leaders in the province, particularly provincial chairman Sihle Zikalala, after Cele pledged his support for Ramaphosa and slammed Zuma for aiming to create a "royal dynasty" by backing his ex-wife, former AU chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him.

Cele said on Monday that he did not regret what he had said last week in Umlazi, where he addressed disgruntled ANC members who are taking the party to court, challenging the result of the November 2015 provincial elective conference, where former premier Senzo Mchunu lost the chairmanship to Zikalala.

"What happened in the Pietermaritzburg High Court convinces me that I was right in what I said in Umlazi," he said.

"Outside court you had a huge crowd supporting the court case and another huge crowd supporting the provincial executive committee. These are not opposition party members, they are all members of the ANC on opposing side because we as the national executive committee failed to lead our members in the right way," he said.

Cele said he had sat at an NEC meeting that spent a whole day discussing whether the provincial conference should be held or not.

"In the afternoon we took a wrong decision which said the conference must go ahead despite glaring discrepancies. That decision is what is leading our members to be disgruntled and take us to court," he said.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, also an NEC member, was also in the Lower South Coast region at the weekend, where she urged Cele to resign from the NEC if he was embarrassed to serve in it.

Cele responded on Monday: "This lady came here and said I should resign. She needs to be educated on ANC members. You serve in the NEC because you are elected by the conference.

"You don’t wake up one day and resign from the NEC. You wait for the next conference, where the ANC members and branches will decide whether you remain in the NEC or you are voted out.

"When we struggled, we didn’t struggle to get cellphones and cars. We struggled so that our people could be free," he said.

Cele also told his audience that he and Zikalala had had a long telephone conversation to iron out differences. "We have since smoked the peace pipe."

Cele still believed the deputy president of the party should assume the presidency when the incumbent stands down, he said.

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