POLITICS

Sisulu: 'No One Calls Comrade Cyril Capitalist Royalty'

"If I behaved like royalty, I would have been royalty from the age of six, when I joined the struggle."

10/11/2017 12:08 SAST | Updated 10/11/2017 12:08 SAST
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Lindiwe Sisulu

ANC presidential candidate Lindiwe Sisulu has rubbished leaders who write her off as "ANC royalty" and say she thinks she's better than some of her comrades.

Sisulu told News24 ahead of her fundraising gala dinner in Hartbeespoort this week that members were being malicious, and that this was nothing more than "pull her down syndrome" at play.

Sisulu is the daughter of struggle veterans Walter and Albertina Sisulu.

"I have been in the struggle all my life, and I am only coming across [the "royalty" sneers] now because it only suits certain people. If I behaved like royalty, I would have been royalty from the age of six, when I joined the struggle," said Sisulu.

Though she said "six" in her interview with News24, she later clarified on social media that the actual age at which she joined the struggle was 16.

She added that if she was indeed "ANC royalty", she would not have experienced the persecution she did during the struggle years.

According to the Daily Dispatch, Sisulu last month attacked ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's character, blaming him for divisions in the party and questioning his struggle credentials.

Mantashe, in response to Sisulu's comments, told News24: "When you serve royalty, you are invisible."

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, in his criticism of Sisulu and her presidential campaign, referred to the former Umkhonto weSizwe member as "thinking she is ANC royalty".

Sisulu told News24 that people saying those things were being malicious.

"It is not done with good intent, and it is not going to take us anywhere," she said.

One of her campaign's members, Thozamile Botha, compared the phenomenon to responses to black people starting to get a stake in the country's economy in the post-democracy era.

"When we came back post-1994, and when black people got into the economy, any black person who got in there, they were seen by the other side as 'affirmative action' or 'corruption'... all the negative things," said Botha.

"And when you are a woman and you can stand up for what you believe in, there must be something that they use to pull you down."

He likened the comments about Sisulu to those, saying people would look for anything negative to cast aspersions.

"Here is a woman who is capable, who has a history...[in the] struggle, and the only way to disarm her is to use this negative perception of her.

"They couldn't find anything to link her to corruption and some of the divisions happening within the ANC. The only thing that was juicy was to say... 'you come from the Sisulu family, therefore we will use that to say you just want to ride the election train'," said the Sisulu campaign council member.

Sisulu added: "No one would say Comrade Cyril [Ramaphosa, one of the party's presidential frontrunners] is capitalist royalty –– it just wouldn't work. It works on women, because it's much easier."

Sisulu, who earlier said she was in a calm state of mind as the race for ANC president heated up, added that the "royalty" comments also reminded her of a time when black people weren't expected to stand up to white people.

"They would say: 'You are a cheeky such and such.'

"And when you are a woman and you can stand up for what you believe in, there must be something that they use to pull you down."

She said it was a pity that a surname, which she respected, was being targeted.

"When we buried my father, he had [previously] wanted to write an epitaph, [in which he wanted to say]: 'I came in this world and worked for the African Congress, I gave my life, and wanted nothing in return' – because that is the ethos that family represents, so I take umbrage," explained Sisulu.

"On my side, I had expected that there would be a pull-down syndrome. This is nothing; it's water off a duck's back," she said.

The human settlements minister also tried to give clarity on her public tiff with Mantashe, after the secretary general had publicly said he felt Ramaphosa should become the ANC's next president and that another presidential hopeful, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, should become his deputy.

Sisulu, who said she wrote to Mantashe over the matter, took issue with his alleged sentiment that the road to the ANC's elective conference in December would be "too difficult" for women to manage.

"And now here I am, a candidate who is a woman –– and the first thing [that] he is saying indicates to me the deep levels of patriarchy in our society –– that it can be said in a public space that a woman would not be able to manage," said Sisulu.

The minister also took offence to the ANC's parliamentary chief whip, Jackson Mthembu's public reaction to her comments about Mantashe, saying she also wrote him a letter.

Mthembu said on social media that Sisulu was "politically immature" and that she had "lost her marbels [sic]".

Sisulu told News24: "Our question is, why would the chief whip of the party respond to something that is in the newspaper without checking? His position would have been to check, to know what's going on."

She also said she was not sure if dirty tricks were perhaps at play in the misunderstandings between the three leaders.

Although the presidential hopeful hasn't kept a close eye on happenings in the lead-up up to the conference, she says her council members do so, and often meet to analyse developments.

This includes their concerns over disputes stemming from the branch general meetings, in which ANC members are currently nominating the leaders they wish to see take over when President Jacob Zuma and his National Executive Committee step down next month.

"The secretary-general's office must resolve all issues quickly," said Sisulu.

Responding to fears over whether or not the December conference will go ahead as planned or be postponed, she said the ANC still had to go ahead with the planned conference.

"[The] conference –– if it doesn't take place, we will be in real trouble in 2019. We can't not have a conference," said Sisulu.

She also asked the media to give the party space, and not negate the gains it has made thus far.