ANC’s secret China trip

2011-10-09 10:00
Mandy Rossouw
Slap-bang in the middle of the Dalai Lama visa drama, senior ANC officials quietly slipped out of the country this week to visit China.

No information was made public by the ANC on the trip undertaken by its secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Luthuli House official Jessie Duarte, deputy economic development minister Enoch Godongwana, and a group of provincial ANC secretaries.

Duarte is in charge of monitoring and evaluation as well as election campaigns.

Provincial leaders, including Eastern Cape secretary Oscar Mabuyane joined them, while Gauteng ANC provincial secretary David Makhura is due to leave for Beijing today.

Asked for comment, a Luthuli House official told City Press that they have no information about the delegation’s size. But Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile put the number at 10.

It is understood the trip is part of an exchange programme between the ANC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP, where groups of ANC national executive committee (NEC) members go to China to experience the “Chinese way of doing things”, as a report on a previous visit puts it.

On these visits, NEC members are taken to different parts of China where they are shown Chinese government projects and introduced to the Chinese governance system.

“It is about understanding the political system and how to take lessons from the Chinese on governance issues,” an ANC source briefed on the matter told City Press.

A Luthuli House official said crucially the ANC also wants to know “how the party (CCP) manages itself”, given the internal problems of discipline and governance in the ANC.

NEC member and Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile said the ruling party gets its political education from China.

In an exclusive interview with City Press on the sidelines of the Joburg regional conference in Pretoria yesterday, Mashatile said the Chinese governing party had offered to teach the ANC about politics.

“China has a very elaborate political education. They teach the theory of politics on how to approach the developmental society. This is a very positive thing,” he said.

He confirmed that the NEC members had been travelling to China for “political lessons”.

He was supposed to have been part of the delegation, but Makhura is one of those travelling to China for two weeks.

According to Mashatile, the ANC pays for the flights while their Chinese counterparts pay for accommodation and meals.

Mashatile denied the very strong party-to-party relations between the two countries had something to do with the Dalai Lama issue.

He said: “I don’t think (China) put pressure on South Africa not to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.”

Over the past two years, the ANC has sent delegations of 30 NEC members each, which is led by a top leader of the ANC.

They learn how the Chinese run their party and government, how they train their cadres and about China’s economic situation.

A grouping of ANC members who went during the last trip in July last year included ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete; Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane; Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba;

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini; Deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo; Siphiwe Nyanda, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu; former National Intelligence Agency boss Billy Masetlha; Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins; and deputy ministers Ngoako Ramathlodi, Joe Phaahla and Ayanda Dlodlo.

During this visit, the delegation learnt about Chinese spatial planning and was impressed with the smooth communication between party and state.