Despite the regular use of former president Nelson Mandela’s legacy at every available opportunity to promote party unity, the African National Congress (ANC) will this week celebrate Madiba’s 94th birthday more divided than ever before.
Yesterday, President Jacob Zuma noted the United Nations had "bestowed a singular honour" on SA by declaring July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day.
"As we acknowledge the selfless contribution of this exceptional compatriot, we need to understand him in a more holistic manner. The starting point is to appreciate Madiba the freedom fighter, the volunteer-in-chief of the ANC, the Umkhonto weSizwe commander-in-chief, and Madiba the skilful political strategist and revolutionary," said Mr Zuma.
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However, only last week Mr Zuma needed an army of police to protect his delivery of a Nelson Mandela memorial lecture in Limpopo, and struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, in an unprecedented act, wrote a letter complaining about the abuse of the Mandela name by the ANC.
Even the Mandela name was not sufficient to maintain party discipline at the Thohoyandou lecture, which descended into chaos when ANC Youth League members, apparently supporters of expelled league leader Julius Malema, invaded the hall.
They entered the hall before Mr Zuma arrived and began singing anti-Zuma songs.
Abbey Makoe, founder and editor-in-chief of the Royal News Services, wrote in a column: "If these are signs of the things to come, well, Heaven help us all. For, if a president should address ‘his’ people under heavy police guard, what has happened to the unguarded handshakes, free comradely hugs and the usual laps before the crowds?
"Are we seeing a president who has gradually lost support among those who catapulted him to power, or, as some would argue, witnessing a total collapse of discipline in the ruling party? Whichever way one looks at it, the wheels are coming off," he said.
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