The African National Congress (ANC) is certainly no stranger to scandal and with party members being accused of corruption and claims of widening factionalism plaguing the continent's longest-running movement, an uphill battle awaits. As if that wasn't enough, the ANC could soon find itself at the centre of yet another controversy, following the party's visit to Zimbabwe.
An ANC delegation led by secretary-general Ace Magashule was sent to the neighbouring country to engage the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu – PF) party on the mounting economic, social and political crises. A series of anti-government protests back in July as well as the subsequent arrest of journalists and opposition figures prompted international condemnation and calls for the South African government and the African Union (AU) to intervene.
This was the second visit by the ANC as President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed Baleka Mbete and Sydney Mufamadi in early August, to engage his counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa – a decision which drew criticism from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, after they were not included in talks.
The delegation, which included other ANC heavyweights Tony Yengeni and Lindiwe Zulu, arrived in the Zimbabwean capital Harare on Tuesday, 8 September 2020 – in a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) plane. This has prompted questions on why the ANC used a state-owned resource for its party affairs and while the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was also part of the group – it isn't yet clear whether her presence was in her capacity as a cabinet member.
SABC journalist Samkele Maseko did not hesitate to ask Magashule whether they were improperly using state resources to conduct ANC business, to which he promptly responded "No".
ANC SG Ace Magashule on ANC delegation using SANDF plane to Zimbabwe... pic.twitter.com/aqJc3ss0cY— Aldrin Sampear (@AldrinSampear) September 9, 2020
Magashule: 'We recommitted to working together and working with our people'
The Zimbabwean government came under fire for the arrest of Hopewell Chin'ono, a journalist who had exposed COVID-19 corruption in the country and implicated a number of high-level government officials.
Reflecting on the visit, Magashule said they respect the rights to freedom of speech and human rights – but he also called on the media to report accurately.
"We are committed to self-introspection. Whatever we do should put people in front. Whenever there are challenges, such challenges should be confronted. So we consolidated that we work together because we are one. We recommitted to working together and working with our people", he said.