Mbete slated after blowing lid on R100m party

2011-11-13 10:00
Carien du Plessis and Cathy Dlodlo
With less than 60 days until the ANC’s 100th birthday, party leaders are at odds about the preparations for the year-long celebration.

ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete, who is in charge of the party’s centenary committee, has come under fire after she publicly revealed the R100-million-plus price tag of the celebrations and after she implied former president Thabo Mbeki had been uncooperative in organising the event. Mbeki denied this.

ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa is said to have been furious when he heard Mbete had mentioned the
R100-million figure for the year-long celebrations.

An ANC source said Phosa felt this could scare off donors because throwing such an expensive bash contradicted the ANC’s pro-poor image.

Phosa did not respond to a call or an SMS sent to him.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu admitted to City Press that Mbete should have kept quiet about the figure.

“All we know is that it will not come cheap. Putting the figure out there is not something that she should have said because it detracts from what we will be doing,” he said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that this figure could rise by a few more million, coming from public money, if infrastructure upgrades and events organised by the Free State government and the Mangaung municipality were taken into account.

The province is chipping in R60 million to upgrade the stadium in Rocklands as part of its “centenary legacy projects”, and R5 million for a sports event related to the ANC’s celebrations – money it plans to recoup with ticket sales.

The metro has reportedly budgeted R35 million to renovate the church in Waaihoek, where the ANC was founded and which was bought by the province.

Mbeki’s planned attendance, his first since he was ousted from the party’s leadership in 2007, has also caused friction.

Mbete said when the party’s centenary task team, with her as the head, was founded two years ago, they contacted “all the past presidents (of the ANC) that are alive”.

Former president Nelson Mandela was easy, she said, because his foundation immediately cooperated, but the party had “only in recent months” been able to make contact with Mbeki, who intends to attend the  celebrations between January 6 and Januar y 8.

Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga confirmed that Mbeki would be attending the celebrations, but said Mbeki had been waiting until recently for Mbete to contact him.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe had written to Mbeki two years ago about the centenary preparations, saying that Mbete would contact him for a meeting “to discuss the celebrations and his participation”.

Mthembu’s official explanation for the delay in meeting with Mbeki was that, for the past two years, they couldn’t find an appropriate diary slot when both Mbeki and Mbete were available.