Pretoria – ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete has come out in defence of the ruling party, saying although some may think it is arrogant, only a few of its leaders might be, and the majority know how to accept when they are wrong.
Speaking at the funeral service of respected academic Professor Rok Ajulu, the husband of Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in Pretoria on Saturday, Mbete took the opportunity to respond to a scathing attack on the party by Ajulu’s friend and SaveSA leader and businessman Sipho Pityana earlier in the day.
A number of speakers who had spoken during the service had described Ajulu as excessively confident which at times came across as arrogance. Mbete said in all her interactions with him, she had not seen it.
“Maybe because we as the ANC have been described as arrogant, we did not see it. Although there are a few who are arrogant, some of us are still wondering where this arrogance people talk of comes from,” she said.
“We are an organisation that accepts our wrongs, we acknowledge that we do make mistakes.”
She said the ruling party wanted to move past this label, and attract the same quality of intellectuals as they had in the past.
“We are an organisation that is determined to move forward, pick up the spears of the Ajulu and move forward because the nation needs us. We want to go back to the ANC that first attracted the [likes of the] Ajulu.”
Pityana criticises govt
Earlier, during his tribute, Pityana had described Ajulu as an “internationalist” who truly understood the concept of international solidarity and deployed it with admirable altruism, generosity and dedication.
“Ajulu was a soldier for a humane, fair, just and equitable international order. It is right that he died in South Africa, for the world was his home.”
Pityana went on to criticise the South African government for some of the decisions it had made throughout the year.
These included South Africa’s decision to support a United Nations resolution which resulted in the air bombardment of Libya and ultimate death of its leader Muammar Gadaffi.
“Can we absolve ourselves from the continued conflict and instability in that country which has resulted from that escapade?”
Pityana also criticised the government’s controversial decision not to allow the Dalai Lama entry to the country to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations.
SA exit of ICC
He said government’s actions were betraying those who had travelled the journey to liberation with the nation.
Pityana also slammed South Africa’s decision to exit the International Criminal Court, saying the decision had made it seem as though the country had sided with the perpetrators.
“We’ve made strides and built a fantastic reputation as an active player in promoting world peace.
“Have we forgotten about the murderous crusade of the Al-Bashir regime of Sudan or the Rwandan genocide, the bloody escapades of Charles Taylor in Liberia, and the many others?
“Should the perpetrators of these war crimes and human rights abuses, and many more who may contemplate the same, not be brought to book?
“We must accept that, in attempting to exit the International Criminal Court, we are seen to have chosen the side of the perpetrators of abuses, and callously and cold-heartedly turned our backs on the victims.
“And we have done so without doing anything to establish an African Court on Human Rights.”
The same could be said about Zimbabwe, he said.
A rogue diplomacy
Pityana said South Africa was bordering on a rogue diplomacy.
He said the country’s foreign policy had lost its global influence over 22 years of democracy due to a lack of moral authority.
“After all, how can we provide the moral authority that was a hallmark of the Mandela administration when we have no moral authority at home?
“How can we expect to exercise global leadership when there is such a leadership vacuum inside our own country?”
He said although these were hard questions, they needed to be answered with the same frankness that Ajulu was known for.
“Because Ajulu, like an increasing number of South Africans, would be right to feel betrayed, when the leadership of a country that emerged as a beacon of hope is suddenly doing everything to turn its back on these fundamental values,” he said.
This was not only the fault of the ruling party, however.
The Democratic Alliance’s silence on Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba’s utterances about illegal immigrants being criminals did little to strengthen the role and recommendations of the SA Human Rights Commission on xenophobia, he said.
“The reality is that the betrayal of the values of our nation, as enshrined in our Constitution, is also carried out in the international arena by a leadership that does not think honour and integrity count for much.
“And so, in the same way that our Constitution and our sovereignty are disrespected, so too are our international principles.
He urged South Africans to muster up the courage and save the country before it was too late.
Shortly after he spoke, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu took to Instagram and posted a statement saying: “ANC LIVES ANC LEAD! Tolerance, freedom of expression even in the face of ANC leadership bashing at funerals! We will not betray anything but focus on changing the lives of our people. Sipho Pitshana continued his trail of ANC bashing. We wish him well.