Comrades no more: ANCYL leads assault on party rebels

10 April 2017 - 08:00 By BONGANI MTHETHWA and KYLE COWAN
STORM TROOPERS: ANC Youth League supporters disrupt the Durban memorial service for Ahmed Kathrada on 9 April 2017.
STORM TROOPERS: ANC Youth League supporters disrupt the Durban memorial service for Ahmed Kathrada on 9 April 2017.

The ANC Youth League disrupted a memorial service for struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada in Durban yesterday - booing former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, the main speaker, and the ruling party's treasurer-general, Zweli Mkhize.

The drama that unfolded at the memorial has been described by analysts as an indicator of the increased bitterness and divisions in the ANC following President Jacob Zuma's controversial cabinet reshuffle.

The memorial was held at Sastri College Hall, where Gordhan wrote his matric 50 years ago.

Both Gordhan and Mkhize, who are also members of the ANC's powerful national executive committee, were drowned out by Youth League members who erupted into the song: "Awusitshele uZuma wenzeni [Please tell us what has Zuma done]."

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Gordhan was a focus of the league's rage for calling for mass mobilisation against Zuma's cabinet reshuffle at Kathrada's official memorial service.

KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairman and economic development MEC Sihle Zikalala intervened twice to try to calm the situation and get the Youth League members to allow Gordhan to speak.

Even the league's provincial secretary, Thanduxolo Sabelo, could not control the rowdy league members, who also disrupted Mkhize's speech.

Gordhan seemed to have particularly angered the ANCYL members when he told the audience: "Unity can't be based on money. Unity can't be based on these brown bags that are moving around.

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"If we can't unite amongst ourselves there is no hope for [the ANC in] 2019. Stop corruption, which erodes our economy. Let's work together so that we can build a future for our generations."

Mkhize said the ANC had been concerned about the tension that was growing in the build-up to the memorial service.

"What we do today must not be allowed to erode the support base of the ANC. We are still the ANC, even if we differ in our views. We're dealing with the issues that have caused the differences among yourselves." he said.

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton said he was disappointed by the disruption of the memorial service.

"I'm disappointed because I had assumed that many members of the youth league had come here to pay tribute to Uncle Kathy, at least that's what they said publicly.

"Their behaviour was extreme intolerance. And it seems there is no respect for divergent views . and that's not democracy."

On Saturday, the Active Citizens Group applied for a court order that would prohibit the youth league from disrupting the memorial service. The judge ruled that league members could attend the service, but must not disrupt it.

The leadership of the league committed itself to ensuring that there would be no disruptions.

Zikalala said the behaviour of some members of the league was not acceptable and would be dealt with by the ANC.

Sabelo said the disruption would be investigated and those responsible would be dealt with.

But Sabelo blamed Gordhan for inciting the league with his remark about "money in brown bags".

Susan Booysen, of the Wits School of Governance, said the treatment of Gordhan and Mkhize at the Durban memorial service was an "internal declaration of war".