No decision has been taken on the succession issue

Smuts Ngonyama

Smuts Ngonyama

There are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are "inside" sources.

None of them should be believed, least of all when the lies are obvious and the "insiders" faceless.

Those who rely on the media for information and news expect that those who write the news are able to distinguish fact from fiction, and that they have enough professional pride to report on that which they know to be fact.

In your article - Drop Mbeki and Zuma - on February 16, Sowetanchooses to give credence to the claims of some anonymous ANC "insiders", thereby propagating a number of fabrications about the ANC.

As if the contents of the article were not sufficiently devoid of truth, the banner headline on the front page leaves no doubt as to the extent of the fiction: "ANC wants Mbeki, Zuma to quit race," it declares.

The article itself claims that "there are moves within the top ANC structure to stop both President Thabo Mbeki and his number two, Jacob Zuma, from running in the ANC leadership race". This, the article continues, "the ANC wants resolved before its June policy conference".

Yet nowhere, at any time, has any ANC structure taken any decision on the eligibility or otherwise of either Mbeki or Zuma for election to any position within the ANC. In fact, the matter has never arisen in any ANC structure. It is therefore astounding for the newspaper to claim that there is an ANC position on the matter.

The ANC's position on the election of its national leadership is very clear, and has been reaffirmed by the ANC national executive committee (NEC) on many occasions in the past two years.

Though Sowetanhas had a journalist present at every NEC media briefing, they appear to have forgotten this fact or, for convenience sake, disregarded it.

The truth is that the ANC's national conference, due to be held in December, will elect the NEC, including its national officials. The procedure by which the election will take place is outlined in the ANC constitution, and is well known to the structures and membership.

The process begins in ANC branches a few months before the national conference.

The ANC has time and again reiterated that it will attend to these matters at the appropriate time, according to established procedures and within the organisational practices of the movement.

If the journalist had done even the most basic research, he would have discovered that a decision to exclude a member in good standing from being nominated to any leadership position would be in breach of the ANC constitution.

There are numerous other fabrications in the article itself, most emanating from the exclusive reliance on the claims of unnamed "insiders". Can these "insiders" be relied upon to provide honest and factual information? Can we trust them to tell the truth objectively, without pursuing some personal agenda?

By their very nature, unnamed "insiders" are unreliable. Information provided by anonymous sources, unless corroborated by additional evidence, should be treated with the utmost scepticism.

In this instance, the "information" provided by Sowetan's sources should be rejected out of hand. Not only is it verifiably untrue, but, in the context of the practices and traditions of the ANC, patently nonsensical.

The article says for example: "ANC strategists prefer going the 'compromise candidate' route."

Anyone who has had even the faintest involvement in the ANC could be forgiven for wondering what an "ANC strategist" is. How does one become an ANC strategist? And what does one then have to strategise about?

The truth is that there's no such thing. People passing themselves off as ANC strategists, or passing others off as such, are dishonest - or delusional.

Not content to rely on its supposedly impeccable "inside" information, the report then goes on to claim a statement made in tribute to the late Adelaide Tambo by former president Nelson Mandela was evidence of his support for the supposed decision to seek a "compromise candidate".

In the section of his speech to which the article alludes, Mandela said: "In these challenging times in the life of the organisation we are all called to return to those values that she represented . Her death may serve to remind all of us to strive for unity and to put the well-being of the organisation above all personal and sectarian considerations."

There is not a single person within the ANC who would not support this statement.

To seek to use this worthy tribute to a person like Mama Tambo by a person of the stature of Mandela to pursue such a dubious objective is a shameful form of political deceit.

Sowetanis clearly pursuing its own agenda with respect to the leadership of the ANC. It was, after all, the newspaper that recently urged readers to "vote" for a "compromise candidate" for the ANC presidency.

Yet whatever its agenda, and whatever its motives, Sowetan should not pretend to its readers that the positions it has taken as a newspaper reflect the views of the ANC or any decisions of its structures. That, after all, would be a lie.

l Smuts Ngonyama is the national spokesman for the ANC .