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ANC vs ANC

It’s an all-out war as the ANC takes to the streets against itself.

The barbed wire has been readied, water cannons prepared and extra police officers deployed in downtown Johannesburg this morning ahead of a mass protest from within the party’s own ranks.

The organisers said yesterday they were prepared “to die” for their cause as children of the ANC.

The protest could exacerbate the turmoil in the ANC with structures calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down, including the executive committee members.

The #OccupyLuthuliHouse group is the first in the internal revolt willing to take to the streets.

Speaking in Johannesburg yesterday, organisers said they expected support from party structures and the public.

Former Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola, one of the leaders of #OccupyLuthuliHouse, said “comrades” had received threats that they would lose tenders if they participated in the protest; others were told their jobs would be on the line.

Organisers said about 10 buses were expected to come from Limpopo, five from KwaZulu-Natal, seven from the Free State and four from North West and Mpumalanga. The Eastern Cape and Western Cape would not attend because of the distance.

Organisers hoped all the buses would reach Johannesburg this morning without “state machinery being used to prevent them from reaching their destination”.

The group is made up of former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini, ANC Youth League member Gugu Ndima and Lamola.

ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba described the organisers yesterday as “cowards” who did not want to participate in party structures.

“We feel that those are cowards. Those are not members of the ANC. They are afraid to participate in the structures of the ANC. They are pulling a cheap political stunt,” she said.

ANC Youth League members in Tshwane stormed a press briefing on Friday that was planned to give details of the #OccupyLuthuliHouse campaign. The campaign is being supported by civil society and some members of the ANC. The call is for Zuma to step down.

The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association, ANC Women’s League and the ANC Youth League have said they would defend the party’s Luthuli House headquarters to prevent protesters from getting inside, adding a #DefendLuthuliHouse counter-tag on social media.

The tension that exists has heightened fears that the protests, and possible subsequent clashes between warring factions, could turn violent.

Police, although unwilling to provide operational details, confirmed they were beefing up security.

“We will have enough deployment [of police officers]. That’s all I can say,” said SAPS spokesman Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.

The ANC itself is not taking any chances and has given strict orders to employees at Luthuli House . A letter sent to The Times, issued by ANC general manager Ignatius Jacobs to all managers and Luthuli House employees, said the party would “prepare for all possible eventualities”.

No activities or meetings were allowed at the weekend and that would remain in place today.

“On Monday all ANC managers and Luthuli House staff members are requested to report for duty as normal. We also request that no meetings be called for Monday, 5 September, with any outside persons or groups. Please note that no visitors shall be allowed into the building on Monday.”

Youth league spokesman Mondli Mkhize said yesterday they would “not allow for people to invade the office or building”.

“How we’re going to do this is simple. We will stand next to the door to ensure that those who are inside remain inside and those who are outside remain outside. The only problem could be if they try to push us. Otherwise we will be peacefully at the door.”

Mkhize accused the Occupy movement of being funded by external forces, including “leaders from within government” whom he was unwilling to name.

“We don’t know what change they are actually calling for. These people who you, as the media, are giving some form of credibility when it doesn’t exist. There are [ANC] members, who are funding this project behind the scenes, including current leaders in government. They are playing to the gallery, pleasing the masters [and] trying to tarnish the image of this movement.

“We will, in due course, share with the public who these members are.and push for them to be charged internally. We are still gathering the evidence so everything is proper,” he said.

This was echoed by the ANC Women’s League.

“We’ll not allow them. They will find us there at Luthuli House waiting to defend the ANC,” said Matuba.

Political analyst Shadrack Gutto said the protest – in conjunction with the ANC’s poor performance in the local government elections – was “marking a turning point” for the party. He said the protest also laid bare “a split within the party”.

“It’s a landmark.and it’s not just a few people here and there [calling for change],” he said.

It remains to be seen whether the #OccupyLuthuliHouse will get support from the public.