“The time has come to put an end to these remarks and actions. The ANC constitution encourages members not to take part in actions that will lead to sowing divisions within the movement,” Mantashe told journalists who packed the entrance to Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
“The assertion made by Julius Malema that new ideas were suppressed is not only disingenuous, but also a deliberate falsehood,” Mantashe said.
The Secretary General argued the ANC would never allow Zuma to be a dictator, and any idea suggesting otherwise is “insulting”.
“We are not a leadership of dwarves. Even if Zuma wanted to be a dictator he has no chance. The national executive committee won’t allow that. They are constantly debating the president on his views and decisions,” Mantashe said.
He was joined by ANC president Jacob Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, treasurer Mathews Phosa, national chairperson Baleka Mbete and deputy secretary general Thandi Modise.
“These alien remarks and actions are used to create the impression the national officials of the ANC are divided. It’s sad this type of foreign behaviour occurs in the year of the centenary of the ANC,” said Mantashe.
The briefing comes in the wake of a sustained attack on the top leadership of the ANC by the league – the most recent in which its president Julius Malema accused Zuma of being dictatorial in his leadership style.
“It is under President Zuma that we have seen a critical voice of the voiceless being suppressed we have seen Zuma democracy being replaced with dictatorship. We have seen intolerance, people becoming impatient with the youth,” Malema told more than 1 000 supporters at the University of the Witwatersrand on Friday.
Malema was sharing the stage with Phosa at the time.
In a separate incident, Malema criticised the Zuma’s style of leadership when he was addressing a rally with Motlanthe in Limpopo.
Mantashe said all utterances against the ANC leadership to date would be investigated and those responsible could face disciplinary sanction.
“Anyone using the ANC centenary celebrations to divide the organisation is treading on thin ice,” he said.
Mantashe said unity would prevail within the ANC through discussion and debate, and not through “careless and reckless remarks”.
In an attempt to quell rumours the top leadership is split in the ongoing disciplinary action against Malema and other members of the league, Mantashe said the ANC’s top officials are united on matters of discipline.
“National officials are not at odds with each other. We remain loyal to all decisions taken and respect the overall disciplinary processes of the ANC,” Mantashe said.
Malema was expelled from the ANC in February after initially appealing a five-year suspension from the organisation when he was found guilty in November of sowing divisions within the ANC.
The league has repeatedly painted the disciplinary charges against Malema as a witch hunt by senior ANC members wishing to suppress the youth of the leading party.
He is currently preparing to argue against his expulsion in front of the ruling party’s national disciplinary appeals committee on April 12.
Besides lambasting the league and “other counter-revolutionary elements” within the ANC, Motlanthe and Phosa used the opportunity to show their support for the current ANC leadership under Zuma.
Both Phosa and Motlanthe are thought to be the main challengers to Zuma when he stands for re-election at the ANC elective conference in Mangaung later this year.
Phosa dispelled reports he was underhandedly supporting Malema by not publicly chastising him during last Friday’s address at Wits.
“I didn’t have the urge to respond in kind but I did break from my prepared speech to warn against ANC leaders engaging in public spats,” said Phosa.
This was echoed by Motlanthe, who said the ANC is working against factionalism.
“The ANC leadership is working on clamping down on unruly elements and those who use our name to cause divisions,” Motlanthe said.
The ANC said while they had not requested to or agreed to meet the youth league to discuss disciplinary matters, it would constantly engage with the youth of the ruling party.
“You always have problems with your teenagers. We’ve given some guidance and will continue to educate the league,” said Modise.