Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe. Picture: MASI LOSI
Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe. Picture: MASI LOSI

The ANC now has a president who is rich and would therefore not be tempted to steal, ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe said on Friday.

Mantashe made the remark while delivering an address at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Oliver Tambo memorial in Wattville, Gauteng ahead of the ANC’s January 8 statement that will take place in East London.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who made his wealth as a businessman, was elected as ANC president in December, taking over the reins from President Jacob Zuma, whose term as the country’s president has been mired in scandal.

Apparently emboldened by his election as party chairman, Mantashe took a veiled swipe at Zuma, saying: "We have elected a president who is rich. We have a president who has money and [is] wealthy and will not be tempted to steal. He is the president of the ANC."

Pressure has been mounting for the ANC’s national executive committee to recall Zuma as president of the country before its maiden meeting on January 10, but the SABC reported Mantashe as having said the issue was not on the agenda for the meeting, which would among other things finalise the January 8 statement.

Mantashe decried the idea that the new top six officials of the party were divided between the two slates that supported Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who also contested for the position of president.

"We are a team of six elected by delegates of the ANC to its national conference. Delegates practically said to us, we hate slate politics," Mantashe said.

He criticised Zuma supporters who have repeatedly said the president was not going anywhere.

"When there is a leadership of the ANC, there is basic requirement that leadership must analyse the movement broadly. Weakness of the last two or three years has been the personification of politics. We can’t talk personal politics‚ we must talk ANC."

Mantashe added: "There is nothing called a no-go area. We must allow the ANC to look into its values. We must enter painful areas and deal with them."

However, Mantashe told the crowd that Zuma’s supporters were abusing his name to cover for their own demeanours.

"They must stop it because it is dangerous to the movement. It hurts Comrade Zuma. People must not abuse his name to cover for their own demeanours. The ANC can’t be sitting on the fence and it must lead the society. Leading society means we must enter painful areas."

Mantashe said the ANC must draw lessons from the life and times of Tambo. "He was the most distinguished leader of our movement. You earn that. You don’t need praise singers to say so. He kept the movement together during most difficult times. We divide it during the easiest times."

Mantashe said Tambo dealt with problems constructively and offered to resign during the ANC Morogoro conference in Tanzania in 1969.

"If you can’t do the right thing‚ you must offer to resign. If you can’t do that‚ you are failing Oliver Tambo," he said.

Mantashe said the biggest challenge facing the governing party was to save its reputation. Alluding to the recent Constitutional Court judgment, which ruled that Parliament had failed to hold Zuma to account, he said the ANC could not sit on the fence.

"You can’t have an ANC that has a trust deficit between itself and the people. You can’t have an ANC that is synonymous with corruption."

South African Communist Party (SACP) first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said the ANC must not be a tool to amass wealth for individuals.

"We are happy with the outcome of the conference and the leadership that has been elected. We will work together with anyone as long as all of us are pushing the ideas of national democratic revolution‚" Mapaila said.

He said the ANC-led alliance‚ which includes the SACP and labour federation Cosatu‚ must be transformed to meet the problems facing the nation’s citizens.

Those in attendance at the wreath-laying ceremony included Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina‚ a Zuma die-hard supporter‚ who cut a lonely figure.