African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula has forced the OR Tambo School of Leadership to halt a mooted public lecture with Ibbo Mandaza, a Zimbabwean academic who is not afraid to criticise the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF).
The school, which was set up to academically empower ANC members on subjects like history and modern politics, was set to host Mandaza on Thursday this week.
However, Mbalula wrote to the principal of the school, Dr David Masondo and informed him of the cancellation. It appears, according to the letter, Mbalula first discussed the matter with Masondo over the phone.
In the letter dated September 5, Mbalula also copied former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe who is the chairperson of the board of the school to inform him of the decision.
The lecture was to be held under the theme: “The state of democracy in the SADC region: A reflection on the national elections of Zimbabwe”.
Mbalula said while they appreciate the school and its work of promoting vigorous debates within its ranks, it has to accept that it is linked to the ANC.
“Furthermore, the lecture is billed as a collaborative effort between the School and the ANC Johannesburg region.
“This clearly constitutes an ANC platform,” Mbalula wrote.
He added that at the present moment, the ANC is closely monitoring the political situation in Zimbabwe, a country that has been on a downward spiral since the year 2000 when war veterans invaded and took over white-owned farms by force.
“At the moment the leadership of the ANC is engaged in a number of delicate engagements regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.
“In this context, a public lecture, at this time, on what is clearly an ANC platform, would complicate these initiatives.
“It is in this context that we have requested that the lecture should not proceed on Thursday, September 7,” he added.
It was not yet clear whether the school had acceded to the demand or not.
Mbalula was on Monday in Zimbabwe with other ANC leaders to attend the contested inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose election was, according to some elections observer reports, marred by irregularities.
President Cyril Ramaphosa also attended the inauguration in his capacity as the head of the South African state, and not as the leader of the ANC, which has ties to Zanu-PF.