Infighting within the Eastern Cape ANC stopped Youth League president Julius Malema and party national executive member Fikile Mbalula from addressing a Nelson Mandela freedom rally in Mthatha yesterday.
The two ANC firebrands were expected at the Walter Sisulu University sports ground as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the unbanning of the ANC and release of Mandela from prison.
The event, attended by about 5 000 people, had been organised by the OR Tambo region for Mthatha’s Umkhonto Wesizwe branch.
Members of the public, who arrived in about 10 buses and 100 vehicles, were left disappointed after it had been extensively advertised that Malema and Mbalula would be attending.
Mbalula was replaced by OR Tambo region chairperson Phumzile Matshoba and Malema was replaced by ANC Youth League provincial secretary Ayanda Matiti.
King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality mayor Siyakholwa Mlamli also did not make the event, although he was expected to welcome guests.
Matshoba said differences within the province was the reason why the two NEC members had not attended.
“We sent invitations to the national office, unfortunately there were people (in the province) who did not like this,” he said.
“As a result Mbalula and Malema didn’t come. We are feeling bad about this. On February 26 we will have a political engagement in the province around this matter,” Matshoba said.
Later Matshoba told the Dispatch it had been decided at the final hour to cancel Malema’s and Mbalula’s participation to protect them from being caught up in a provincial squabble.
He said this was after ANC provincial spokesperson Mlibo Qhoboshiyana, who is also the Youth League’s provincial chairperson, was heard on a local community radio saying the province was not part of the rally.
“We were disturbed to hear this and we decided to tell the two comrades not to come,” Matshoba said.
But Matiti said Mbalula and Malema did not come because they had more important matters to attend to.
“Malema had to attend a funeral of a comrade,” he said.
ANC OR Tambo regional secretary Jackson Sabona first said the two were no longer coming because they were travelling overseas, but later admitted they did not come because of the situation in the province.
“We then felt that it was proper that the rally be addressed by the PEC and the REC members,” said Sabona.
He also said he was demoralised to hear Qhoboshiyana telling Unitra Community Radio station that the province was not part of the rally.
“The details of the rally were discussed with ANC provincial secretary (Oscar Mabuyane), who endorsed the event.”
ANC national spokesperson Brian Sokutu said he was not aware of the event, and referred the queries to Qhoboshiyana. Qhoboshiyana said although he was informed about the event he was not sure of the details.
“When I was in Mthatha I saw posters of the event as I was driving,” he said. “I think it is a Ward Five rally because wards can organise their own events without our approval. There are many wards is the region and we can never know everything they do. We only participate in the regional and provincial events,” he said.
Source: www.dispatch.co.za, 20100222
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