Jessie Duarte: 'Strongmen' in the ANC are fuelling violent protests

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte admitted that there were factions at each other's throats within the ANC but she was “not convinced” this had fuelled the pro-Zuma protests.

Mawande AmaShabalala Political journalist
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte. File picture.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte. File picture.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Violent protests triggered by those calling for the release of former president Jacob Zuma have nothing to do with internal ANC factional wars, party deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said.

Duarte admitted that there were factions at each other's throats within the ANC, but said she was “not convinced” that the antagonism between warring factions fuelled the pro-Zuma protests.

She said if the looting and violence was endorsed by one of the ANC factions, the party national executive committee meeting at the weekend would not have been unanimous in condemning it.

If anything, Duarte charged, it was a few “strongmen” in pockets of ANC structures in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga who were behind the protests.

Duarte also differed with her own president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who during a national address on Sunday night classified the unrest as one anchored on “ethnic mobilisation”.

According to Duarte, the scenes that have been seen in the country at the weekend were much more “complex, dynamic and fluid” to be pinned on a homogeneous group of people. 

She slammed those she accused of using Zuma as a selling point to fuel anarchy in the country.

“You cannot factionalise comrade Zuma because it is difficult for all of us that a leader of our movement is sentenced to 15 months for contempt of court. 

“We think what has happened is much bigger than that [ethnic mobilisation]. People wearing their cultural attire in our country is not unusual. We all do that. So you cannot ascribe my wearing my traditional attire and add any value to that.

“What to add value to is that people are protesting, and what they are protesting about, your ethnicity in this instance does not matter. The looter and the people who are burning things out there are not declaring which ethnicity they are from. They loot and they burn,” she said.

Duarte said the party was aware of the agitators of the unrest who were doing it for their own narrow interests hiding behind ANC factions.

“It is a few people [who are behind this]. It starts in KZN. In Gauteng it is one subregion in Soweto, with one person who is very vocal and very strong. In Mpumalanga, similarly.

“So it is what we call the 'strongmen syndrome' because these are the very people who are linked to the people [who] insist that 35% of money must come from local government where there is a contract,” said Duarte. “It is more complex matter as opposed to a matter of ascribing it to a faction in the NEC. We are not convinced that the factions are at the core of this violence.”

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