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ANC president Jacob Zuma launched a scathing attack on the former party chairman and minister of defence Mosiuoa Lekota.
Zuma was addressing the congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in Vanderbijlpark yesterday when he criticised the suspended Lekota over his "divorce" from the ANC.
"No individual is bigger than the ANC. All members are subjected to the normal discipline as outlined in our constitution.
"We are not saying that we are silencing disgruntled members," Zuma said.
"Loyal and disciplined members who have genuine grievances know how issues are raised and they must follow those channels."
He said Lekota and his group thought that they were more important than the ANC.
Zuma said he was shocked by Lekota's accusation that the party had deviated from the Freedom Charter.
"What are their real reasons to act so and undertake an un-ANC reason. The truth will come out," he said.
Zuma said Lekota wanted "to steal" the Freedom Charter from the ANC.
"It belongs to the party and he won't succeed in doing so."
Zuma also defended the wearing of "100percent Zulu-boy" T-shirts and the singing of the Umshini Wam song, saying there is no policy in the ANC that dictated which songs should be sung.
Speaking at the same congress, both SACP chief Blade Nzimande and Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi also lashed out at Lekota.
"Lekota's party is a 702 party. We must leave no stone unturned and jealously guard the ANC. His divorce is not genuine and is designed to solicit a response and is a political stunt," said Vavi.
"It is just a fulfillment of a decision which was taken a long time ago. Lekota's group is constituted by people who lost votes in the Polokwane conference."
There was no protest by Numsa members against Vavi's address at the meeting as was initially expected. On the contrary, he was warmly welcomed.
Nzimande, criticising Lekota, said in 1994 he had tried to use a worker project merely to gain personal power.
He also asked: "What party can you [Lekota] form with Willie Madisha and Phillip Dexter?
"This is an intensified smear campaign against the SACP. now they even say I was a member of the IFP."