SECRETARY General of the African National Congress (ANC) Gwede Mantashe addressed a packed Simunye hall on the evening of October 10, painting a valiant picture of the late Oliver Reginald Tambo during his memorial lecture to Bitou residents.
Mantashe’s synopsis of the venerated struggle leader’s life also served to encourage the backing of ANC members and supporters. Other delegates from the ANC provincial head office included provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs, spokesperson Jabu Mfusi, and members of the Southern Cape regional committee.
The community hall was packed to a point that there was no space to move. But the gathering was off to a bad start when a local resident gave a disrespectful rendition of the South African anthem - to the extent that Mantashe dropped his raised fist and looked at the comrades next to him on stage to see if they noticed the perpetrator. The anthem ended in disarray because of this misdeed.
The crowd was now ordered to sit still and listen, as they were clearly busy distributing promotional materials and jostling t-shirts off campaigners when the lecture was set to start.
“Be quiet!” commanded Mantashe before reminding everyone in attendance that the day’s focus was a memorial lecture, and not about campaigning. He proceeded to say that he would recommend 2018 to be the Nelson Mandela memorial lecture year, to which the audience erupted in applause.
Mantashe praised the wisdom and knowledge of the late OR Tambo.
“Mr Tambo’s life was made a success by the strict upbringing received at the home where he was born. In politics, we meet people as adult and there is very little we can do as a movement to change how an individual has been brought up at home.
“If you didn’t get a good foundation at home, life does nothing to change you for the better. It may make you a worse person or lead you to prison. As the ANC, we cannot control a person’s bad behaviour. We send comrades to workshops, but a workshop can’t improve personal character.”
Mantashe responded to criticism by the ANC in KwaZulu Natal, and specifically by former chairperson Sihle Zikalala, who accused him of siding with deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
“Indeed I repeat what I said there: a deputy is supposed to take over as president. Why would we swing in somebody who has been serving in other areas of the ANC? Since Mandela took over the helm, he recommended his deputy Thabo Mbeki, to follow him up.
“Mbeki recommended the person voted in as his deputy, which was Mr Zuma. Now we are asking ourselves, why would Mr Zuma want somebody who is also a former wife to take over?
Mantashe ended his lecture with a clear directive: “We are recommending that Cyril Ramaphosa become the next president. You, the delegates from our national branches, must advocate this drive in December.”