Comrades pile into Mbalula
Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula is in the firing line for reportedly letting loose a litany of insults directed at President Jacob Zuma.
ANC branches in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have demanded that he retract his statements or resign from the senior positions he holds in the party.
Mbalula, who is also a member of the ANC's powerful national executive committee, was reported as saying that Zuma thrived on corruption and was a "politically bankrupt" leader who married "every week".
Yesterday, Mbalula denied that he had insulted Zuma.
He said his conversation with the Independent Newspapers journalists had been "twisted" for the sake of sensationalism.
"At no stage of our conversation did I refer to President Zuma as marrying every week ... and being politically bankrupt.
"This is absolute nonsense and must be dismissed as such. It is not in my nature to play the man and not the ball because anything of this sort would amount to cheap politics and character assassination," Mbalula said.
He said those jumping on the bandwagon to "lynch" and "vandalise" his name were being totally "disingenuous".
There has been a great deal of tension leading up to the ANC's elective conference in December in Mangaung, with the party split into two main factions - those who support Zuma's bid for a second term and those in favour of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe taking over the party reins.
Mbalula is believed to be a staunch opponent of Zuma's retaining power.
Yesterday the ANC in Zuma's home province and political stronghold, KwaZulu-Natal, said Mbalula must retract his comments or resign.
"We call on the ANC national working committee to call Mbalula to account on these comments as they are undermining the integrity of the organisation," said provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala.
The Eastern Cape branch of the ANC also had harsh words for Mbalula.
Provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said that no amount of insults would deter party members from their decision to re-elect Zuma.
He said Mbalula had descended into the lowest realm of politicking by relying on insults to sustain his popularity.
"For a recent graduate from iBhoma (traditional circumcision school), Comrade Mbalula evinces high levels of disrespect.
"Clearly, the lessons imparted to him are yet to percolate in his soul and mind, hence he acts contrary to what is expected from a man, especially a recent graduate," said Qoboshiyane.
The two provinces have been the most vociferous supporters of Zuma's being retained as president of the ANC, and therefore the nation, for a second term.
Limpopo, a province strongly linked to former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and said to be pro-Motlanthe , has called for Mbalula to replace Gwede Mantashe as the party's secretary-general.