SA: ‘Nobody should tell us who should be our friends’, ANC says after inviting Zanu PF for election

SA: ‘Nobody should tell us who should be our friends’, ANC says after inviting Zanu PF for election

By Jason Felix and Soyiso Maliti for News24

SOUTH AFRICA: The ANC said pandering to the noise of the opposition for inviting its Zimbabwean ally Zanu-PF as a guest for the general election would be disowning people the governing party worked with during the apartheid struggle.

This is according to ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who has come out guns blazing in defence of the ANC’s decision to invite the Zimbabwean ruling party as “guests in South Africa” for the upcoming election.

Opposition parties have criticised the move due to Zanu-PF’s history of electoral irregularities and the intimidation of opponents to clinch victory in its own country.

Speaking to News24 while on the campaign trail in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, Mantashe said: “Zanu-PF is a liberation movement, so we can’t sing to the noise and try to disown [the] people we worked with in the years of the struggle. Nobody should tell us who should be our friends and who we should work with. We should make that decision ourselves.”

ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri also defended the move saying Zanu-PF would not be acting as election observers, but merely be guests of the ANC.

She said:

The ANC has a longstanding tradition of inviting liberation movements from across the African continent and beyond as guests. The ANC confirms that this standing invitation has also been extended to Zanu-PF. However, it’s important to note that the invitation does not extend beyond being guests of the ANC.

In an interview with the SABC, ANC first deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane said there was nothing untoward about their talks with Zanu-PF, as the governing party engages other parties across the world.

“In fact, we’re looking forward [to hosting Zanu-PF] and also learn from how ZANU PF has been able to renew itself and even reclaim constituencies that in the past they have not. Same with us. We have to reclaim and prepare for a takeover of the lost metros in South Africa,” she said.

Later, in a statement to clarify the issue, Mokonyane said: “The conflation between party activities and observer status as per the IEC [Electoral Commission of SA] processes is a deliberate ploy by the opposition to distort long-established conventions. Just as the ANC has always been a guest of our sister liberation parties, we too extend the same courtesy and invite them as our guests.”

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This irked several opposition parties.

16 June 1999. Johannesburg. Former President of So

16 June 1999. Johannesburg. Former President Thabo Mbeki and controversial late President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe at FNB stadium. (Gallo Images/Media24)
Gallo Images

DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said that in its desperate attempt to hang on to power by any means necessary, the ANC was inviting electoral outcasts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

He said: “The ANC’s invitation to Zanu-PF, asking them to come and be part of their election campaign programme, amounts to political interference with our elections. This compromises the Electoral Code of Conduct that all political parties swore to uphold.

“Zanu-PF does not deserve to even act as an observer to the May elections because this is the same political party that has repeatedly violated Zimbabwe’s electoral laws to stay in power. They have burnt Zimbabwe to ashes and should not be brought anywhere near what is the most consequential election in South Africa since the dawn of democracy.”

Malatsi also said the DA would be lodging an official complaint with the IEC, citing potential harm the ANC’s move could have on the credibility of the election.

“We simply cannot allow a foreign political party to actively pursue a partisan political agenda on behalf of the ANC. Following Zimbabwe’s disputed elections in August 2023, which saw Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa controversially ‘re-elected’ for a second term, the SADC Election Observer Mission noted that the elections ‘fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections’,” he said.

In March, the DA pleaded for help from the EU, G7 and Scandinavia, concerned about interference in South Africa’s election.

The party sent a letter requesting assistance for South African NGOs to ensure there would be no foreign interference.

The same letter was also sent to several high commissioners and ambassadors in South Africa.

Meanwhile, GOOD party secretary-general Brett Herron said Zimbabwe had not had free and fair elections for decades.

He also said Zanu-PF has been central to undermining Zimbabweans’ rights to participate in credible elections.

“As I understand it, the ANC is inviting Zanu-PF to be part of their election observer teams along with other political parties in the SADC region. The reference, by their deputy secretary-general, to ‘learning from Zanu-PF’ is a clear lack of judgement and perspective.

He said:

However, the IEC has run six credible national and provincial elections, and we have no reason to doubt that they will run our seventh democratic election in a manner that is free and fair, and where the outcome is credible. The fact that Zanu-PF is observing this as part of an ANC invitation will not affect that. Perhaps they will learn something about political tolerance and legitimate contestation.

ActionSA spokesperson on foreign affairs Solly Moeng said the ANC would be outraged if the opposition were to invite a party from overseas as an election observer.

“The ANC has aided Zanu-PF in the past and whitewashed its electoral fraud. We don’t know why the ANC would rely on Zanu-PF, which has destroyed Zimbabwe so much. I think the ANC needs to respect South Africa. Zanu-PF is not a respected party at all, and it’s not known to be impartial in the South African sphere,” Moeng said.

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Rise Mzansi national spokesperson Gugu Ndima said Zimbabwe had a history of rigged elections, violence and general political intolerance.

“The idea that the ANC and, by extension, government would cosy up with Zanu-PF is shocking but not unexpected from a political organisation that is fast losing legitimacy among voters. This overture by the ANC is no different to the DA writing to the US government requesting election observers. This must, in the same breath, be condemned as a stunt and part of the DA’s ploy to ingratiate itself with US politics, which are also marked by elections controversy,” Ndima said.

Build One SA (BOSA) also weighed in on the matter. Its head of international relations, Stevens Mokgalapa, said it was unsurprising that the ANC is a bedfellow of Zanu-PF, “considering it too is desperate to cling on to power at any cost”.

“We reject this with the contempt it deserves and wish to tell Zanu-PF that they are not welcome in South Africa,” Mokgolapa said.