JOHANNESBURG – The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa’s Secretary General, Fikile Mbalula, has come under scrutiny for blocking a public lecture by Zimbabwean public intellectual Dr. Ibbo Mandaza at Wits University’s O.R Tambo School of Leadership.
The lecture was intended to address the state of democracy in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, focusing on the national elections in Zimbabwe.
Mbalula, who is currently in Harare engaging with ZANU-PF colleagues, reportedly expressed concern that Dr. Mandaza’s lecture would disrupt private discussions between the ANC and ZANU-PF.
The cancellation of the lecture has stirred controversy within the ANC, with some members expressing discontent over the ruling party secretariat’s close association with ZANU-PF and his public defense of what has been criticized as rigged elections in Zimbabwe.
Mbalula radical approach towards Chamisa
Mbalula’s recent derogatory remarks about Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, have also fueled tensions within the ANC. He referred to Chamisa as a “Western puppet.”
Critics have raised questions about whether ANC leadership elections have been influenced by financial support from ZANU-PF, potentially in exchange for backing Zimbabwe’s controversial elections, repressive actions, and alleged corruption.
One senior South African civil servant, speaking anonymously, highlighted concerns about Mbalula’s behavior and its potential implications.
The official suggested that ZANU-PF might be exerting influence within the ANC leadership.
An academic at Wits University questioned why Dr. Mandaza’s lecture would pose an issue to ANC-ZANU-PF negotiations unless the Zimbabwean elections were rigged.
“Mbalula’s unprecedented intervention suggests that the election was rigged,” the academic asserted.
They further challenged Mbalula’s motives, asking why he was concerned about the lecture’s content and its impact on ANC-ZANU-PF discussions.
The cancellation of the lecture has raised concerns about academic freedom and the influence of political considerations on South African universities, with some accusing the ANC chief of importing ZANU-PF practices into an academic institution.