The ANC says national executive committee (NEC) members who continue to challenge its decision to all invite parties to join the government of national unity (GNU) announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week will face disciplinary action.

This has been viewed by some in the party as censorship.

Senior NEC members, including Zweli Mkhize and Lindiwe Sisulu, have been among the most vocal critics of the proposed government of national unity, which would see the ANC working with, among other parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

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They have instead argued for a coalition arrangement with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, despite the NEC decision to call parties to join the ANC in a broad based government of national unity.

The ANC has now insisted that no one should make statements contradicting the party position in the statement read by Ramphosa last Thursday at the conclusion of last week’s lengthy NEC meeting on who to form a government with.

In a letter to NEC members on 5 June, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula said the results of the 2024 elections — in which the party’s national vote share slumped to 40.18% from 57.5% in 2019 — had far-reaching implications for the country.

The complex situation required “maximum discipline” in which NEC members must “lead by example”, Mbalula said.

He added that the party noted with “serious concerns” the public pronouncement by “certain NEC members” articulating their “personal views on a variety of matters” and urged them to stop doing so and to “articulate their views” in the NEC, rather than the media.

“Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action with immediate effect,” Mbalula warned.

Sisulu, Mkhize, Andile Lungisa and other NEC members have argued that working with the DA will cause a further split in the party, which lost its majority for the first time in 30 years as a result of the emergence of the MK Party.

An NEC member told the M & G that they would “not stop talking” because they had “not taken any money to keep quiet” and would “rather be killed”.

They said the DA was “leveraging and blackmailing the ANC” over some of the mistakes the party had committed in the past — including its handling of the controversy around the theft of foreign currency from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm — despite only having taken 21.81% of the vote.

“They want to govern the country through blackmail. For instance, we can take Phala Phala, they will say you need to do this, and if you don’t do this, we will bring back Phala Phala on the table; that is the kind of blackmail politics that the DA is using,” the NEC member added.

ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri told the M&G that any “self-respecting organisation” would ensure that “only designated messengers carry the perspective of the organisation in the public domain”.

She said “those unfamiliar with the principle of democratic centralism may opportunistically view this as censorship”, adding that the NEC had decided that disciplinary policy must be invoked against those who continued to air their views outside what had been communicated by the party.

“The ANC NEC implored, directed all its members to stay disciplined, calm and air their views in what was a very democratic process of consultation with each and every member and given a chance to articulate their perspective and the NEC emerged with a decision,”  Bhengu-Motsiri said.

“It is therefore suggested that no one should be speaking out of the resolution and the statement read out by President Cyril Ramaphosa.”

She said the ANC has an internal communication protocol that is well known to all NEC members, provincial committee members and others, which clearly outlines who speaks for the organisation.

“These are well known documents and these are not censorship documents. They are about holding the line and making sure that when the ANC communicates, its message is communicated from proper channels,” Bhengu-Motsiri said.

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