As the African National Congress (ANC) in the Free State blames external forces infiltrating the party for Monday’s chaos where President Jacob Zuma was booed, the mother body has laid the blame squarely on the party’s alliance partners.
The ANC is suggesting that people heckled the president because the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) previously called on him to step down.
The president got the cold shoulder at the federation’s main May Day rally in Bloemfontein on Monday where he was not even allowed to address workers.
Scuffles broke out at the rally between those in support of and against the president.
“There was no winners, we’ve been embarrassed by this.”
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa says Monday’s developments are regrettable.
The party says the embarrassing incident is the result of premature pronouncements by Cosatu and the SACP on the ANC succession.
“The incident is a consequence of what the ANC has always advised. Those premature public pronouncements undermine our efforts to foster unity in the alliance.”
ANC Free State chairperson Ace Magashule believes external forces are at play.
“This is the time when South Africa is highly infiltrated my brother, it doesn’t need science. It doesn’t need Marx and Lenin, we’re highly infiltrated. People are there to divide us.”
He says the president also felt embarrassed as workers heckled him.
Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini said the federation’s leaders knew that President Zuma would be heckled but said there was nothing it could do.
Organisers cancelled all speeches after scuffles broke out between supporters of the president and those who didn't want him to address the rally.
Dlamini said they knew the president would be heckled.
“It was clear, but we didn’t need to stop the march.”
Magashule said he thought threats to boo the president were just rumours.
“I heard from the spokesperson of the ANC that there are these rumours that there will be booing and disruptions and we said those will be ill-disciplined people and cadres.”
The leaders agree that divisions in the ANC-led alliance are diving workers and unions membership to the ground.
The Free State ANC meanwhile says it will analyse video footage to ascertain if its members contributed to the collapse of the gathering.
The provincial ANC will meet with SACP and Cosatu leaders on Tuesday to discuss what happened.
Magashule said what happened on Monday was shameful.
“We’ve taken our own videos. We’ll be analysing them ahead of the meeting with the alliance officials. People in this province are quite disciplined from across the alliance partners and that’s why we’re saying it’s an embarrassment.”
This is the first time Zuma has been booed outside of Gauteng, the first time he’s been booed at an alliance event and the first time he’s been prevented from speaking at an event.
At the same time, it appears other ANC officials associated with Zuma have also been booed in KwaZulu-Natal and the North West.
That could suggest this action was planned in advance.
But it also shows that Cosatu members are frustrated with Zuma’s refusal to leave office and marks a turning point in his relationship with the federation.
However, there could also be implications for some of Cosatu’s leaders, including its president Dlamini, for letting him come to the Bloemfontein event in the first place.