"It's an African National Congress (ANC) gone mad, the way the leadership have dealt with some of the issues. I mean, you fire a competent minister of finance and then you try to block the report of the public protector!"
Mavuso Msimang doesn't mince his words.
The former MK operative, director-general of Home Affairs, CEO of SanParks and the state's IT agency, Sita, told HuffPost SA in an interview that many — if not all — of the ANC's troubles could have been prevented if it had proper leadership.
It's an ANC gone mad, the way the leadership have dealt with some of the issues. Mavuso Msimang
Msimang was among a group of party elders that met the governing party's leadership on Monday. The group included Frank Chikane, cleric and former director-general in the presidency, former leader of the ANC Women's League Gertrude Shope, erstwhile Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, as well as Dennis Goldberg, a Rivonia trialist.
"Our engagement with the leadership, which included Zuma, was predictably difficult. We covered many issues, all which are in the public domain, and which you might call 'weighty'."
He says the ANC suffers collateral damage every time some or other scandal engulfs government. "It's not the party, sure, but we cannot escape responsibility."
It's the quality of the ANC's leadership, however, that grates.
"If you look at the last year's events, since Nhlanhla Nene was fired as minister of finance and everything that's happened since, the leadership has failed to intervene like they should have.
If you look at the last year's events, since Nhlanhla Nene was fired as minister of finance and everthing that's happened since, the leadership has failed to intervene like they should have.Mavuso Msimang
"Take the Constitutional Court's judgment in March, where it found Zuma violated his oath of office, for example. Zuma should have resigned, but when he didn't the leadership should have forced him to."
"Then, with the public protector's investigation into state capture, which, by the way has just caused one scandal after the other, Zuma tried to block the release of the report. Why did the leadership not do anything? I cannot defend it if asked."
It attests to "an ANC gone mad", Msimang says and warns the party is headed towards the precipice.
"Some in the leadership have abandoned loyalty to South Africa and have shifted to being only loyal to the ANC and, in particular, to one individual."
But Msimang was hopeful and said there seemed to be a "genuine desire" from the leadership to talk. It was Zuma who asked for a follow-up meeting with the veterans, set for Friday.
Msimang is however hopeful and says there seemed to be a "genuine desire" from the leadership to talk. It was Zuma who asked for a follow-up meeting with the veterans, set for Friday.
"We might be in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future... hopefully the country won't be gone by then... but next year's national elective conference is an opportunity to appoint leaders with moral authority. Drastic steps need to be taken, because if the status quo persists, it will spell the end of the ANC. I have a real fear that what happened this year with the municipal election could be repeated in 2019, and on a larger scale."
Msimang remains convinced the only way for the ANC to "reset" itself is to call a consultative conference ahead of next year's national conference, which will elect a new leadership. The consultative conference must be broad, with input from society at large.
"There are pertinent points that we need to pay attention to.
"This includes measures on how to resuscitate the organisation, how we are to regain the respect of the people, how do we arrest flagging support and importantly, how do we address the numerous scandals the party is embroiled in?"
He is in continuous discussion with colleagues serving in the NEC — and in the Top Six leadership — and believes his indictment of the state of the party is shared by many. "There are a lot of them who are uncomfortable with what's happening, but unfortunately they are in the minority. Until that changes, we are teetering on the edge."