Mbeki accuses 'ultra-leftists' of abusing ANC membership


SOUTH AFRICA: The 51st national conference of South Africa's ruling African National Congress ended yesterday with an attack by President Thabo Mbeki on "factionalists" who had "abused their membership of the ANC" during elections for a new national executive committee.

There was little doubt that he was referring to the "ultra-leftists" in the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) that he had previously accused of conspiring to take over the ANC. Hinting that the "ultra-left factionalists" would be punished for secretly distributing lists of their ideological kinsmen, Mr Mbeki said: "Our movement will have to take stern action against those who have thus acted to divide our movement, even as they sat among us wearing ANC T-shirts." The prospect of an on-going witch hunt for "ultra-leftists" - who have yet to be named publicly - was foreshadowed in his closing address, even though there were ringing calls for unity between the ANC and its SACP and Cosatu allies during the conference by delegates from across the ideological spectrum, Mr Mbeki not excluded.

The results of the election for a new national executive committee confirmed that the balance of power in the ANC-led alliance - which provides for cross-membership of the three allied organisations - has shifted decisively in favour of the increasingly pro-capitalist and pro-nationalist forces led by Mr Mbeki. One sign of that shift was the re-election of five of the six permanent ANC officer bearers. The only exception was the election of Ms Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele, a staunch Mbeki supporter, as deputy secretary-general, in the place of Ms Thenjiwe Mthintso, a member of the SACP central committee.

The election of the 60 ordinary members of the ANC told its own tale. Finance Minister Mr Trevor Manuel, a vocal champion of the government's investor-friendly macro-economic policy and of a disciplined budgetary policy, topped the list. He received 2,800 of the roughly 3,000 votes.

Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and ANC secretary-general who has become a successful businessman, garnered the second highest number of votes. A powerful protagonist of the new class of black moguls, his election highlighted the ANC's increasingly prominent role as a vehicle for black capitalism rather than people's socialism.