The ANC is suffering as a result of infighting and a loss of technical capacity, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has said. In a wide-ranging interview with The Star ahead of the party's policy conference on Thursday, Mantashe said the party's problems could be traced back to 2005 when party structures revolted after Jacob Zuma was fired by then-president Thabo Mbeki, Mantashe said.
And, Mantashe maintained that the consequences of firing Zuma would be too severe, adding that fears of a split in the party were real, he said.
"It is [a matter of life and death] in a sense that you have an organisation that is going through a very difficult period, and you have a policy conference. You sit with your veterans and stalwarts, you quibble about the form, rather than the content. On the basis of the form, they walk away. That is a reflection of the health of the organisation and we must be open about things that reflect directly on the ANC and be able to come up with responses," he said.
Mantashe reportedly said the party had lost technical capacity when it sent its best cadres to government in 1994. But this was not the ANC's biggest problem.
"The problem is not in that technical capacity; the problem is in the political divisions and fights. This is why, to me, it is quite important to trace that from 2005. The biggest liability to the ANC is the divisions of ANC structures where people believe factions are more important than the body itself."
He told The Star that even stalwarts like Andrew Mlangeni were unsure of how to deal with calls to remove Zuma.
"The only person who can deal with that issue is Tat'u Mlangeni, who has been in the ANC since 1945 and served under seven different presidents. Therefore we are building on experience as we walk on that issue.
"Where I am sitting, you do an analysis of what would happen if you remove a sitting president of the ANC, who still has a lot of visible support within the organisation. You can take a position to be correct in the public and fire him, and hope you will deal with the chaos that will follow, or be cautious of the possibility of chaos of that removal, which is a reality."We have been saying let's manage this thing more carefully than being agitated by convenience," he said.