South Africa’s African National Congress rejected comments made by Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo, king of Nelson Mandela’s AbaThembu clan, that the party is made up of “corrupt hooligans.”
Dalindyebo said President Jacob Zuma and the ANC have distorted the legacy of Mandela, the nation’s first black president, according to a report in Johannesburg-based Times newspaper. He was speaking outside Mandela’s home village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province at a prayer service for the 94-year-old ex-president, who is critically ill, the Times said.
“We don’t expect the king to go this low without any evidence to be calling the organization and the president names,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in an interview in Johannesburg. “I am looking at that king with suspicion now. I’m doubting his sincerity on almost everything he has done.”
The AbaThembu clan are part of the Xhosa people, South Africa’s second-largest ethnic group that hails from Eastern Cape province. Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, the nation’s first two post-apartheid presidents, are Xhosa, while Zuma is a member of the Zulu tribe, the nation’s biggest ethnic group. The ANC has lost support in Eastern Cape province since Zuma took office in 2009.
The ANC-led government is dogged by corruption scandals that may erode support for the party ahead of next year’s general election. Zuma has been lampooned in the media and criticized by opposition political parties after the Gupta family, who are personal friends of the president, were allowed to use a military airbase in April to land a civilian Airbus plane carrying wedding guests.
“I’m not sure if there’s anyone who supports the ANC who is not worried,” Lungisile Ntsebeza, director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Cape Town, said by phone. “There’s a broader context here, which is that there is disapproval in the way the ANC and President Zuma are handling themselves, especially over the past 18 months with the Nkandla and the Gupta scandal.”
The government has been criticized for alleged overspending on the refurbishment of Zuma’s private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province.
“It seems like we don’t have human beings in the ANC listening to members,” Dalindyebo is quoted by the Times as saying. “We have members rushing for the Guptas’ dustbins.”
The king was applauded when he said the ANC has “been corrupted by rich people,” according to the Times.
He encouraged people to vote for the opposition Democratic Alliance if the ANC doesn’t change its direction, the newspaper said.
The ANC has won about two-thirds support in every election since the first all-race vote in 1994. The Democratic Alliance garnered 17 percent in the last election in 2009.
“If he wants to go to the Democratic Alliance, by all means, he has the right to,” Mthembu said. “But he has no right to tell his subjects. When you do these types of things as a king, you obviously also alienate yourself from some people.”