African National Congress (ANC) presidential candidate Lindiwe Sisulu has rubbished leaders who have dubbed her ANC "royalty" and say she thinks she’s better than some of her comrades.
Sisulu told News24 ahead of her fundraising gala dinner in Hartbeespoort this week that members were being malicious and this was nothing more than "pull her down syndrome" at play.
Sisulu is the daughter of struggle veterans Walter and Albertina Sisulu.
"I have been in the struggle all my life and I am only coming across it now because it only suits certain people. If I behaved like royalty I would have been royalty from the age of six when I joined the struggle," said Sisulu.
Though she mentioned the age of "six" in her interview with News24, she later clarified on social media that the actual age she joined the struggle was 16.
She added that if she was indeed ANC "royalty" she would not have experienced the persecution she did during the struggle years.
According to the Daily Dispatch, Sisulu last month attacked ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's character, blaming him for divisions in the party and questioning his struggle credentials.
Mantashe, in response to Sisulu's comments, told News24: "When you serve royalty you are invisible."
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, in his criticism of Sisulu and her presidential campaign, referred to the former member of Umkhonto weSizwe as thinking she is "ANC royalty".
Sisulu told News24 that people saying those things were being malicious.
"It is not done with good intent and it is not going to take us anywhere," she said.
One of her campaign’s members, Thozamile Botha, compared the phenomenon to what happened just after the post democracy era when black people started getting a stake in the country’s economy.
"When we came back post-1994 and when black people got into the economy, any black person who got in there, they were seen by the other side as 'affirmative action' or 'corruption'… all the negative things," said Botha.
In likening the comments about Sisulu to that period, he said people would look for anything negative to cast aspersions against someone.
"Here is a woman, who is capable, who has a history…[in the] struggle and the only way to disarm her is to use this negative perception of her.
"They couldn’t find anything to link her to corruption and some of the divisions happening within the ANC. The only thing that was juicy was to say… 'you come from the Sisulu family therefore we will use that to say you just want to ride the election train'," said the Sisulu campaign council member.
Sisulu added: "No one will say Comrade Cyril (Ramaphosa, one of the party’s presidential frontrunners) is capitalist royalty, it just wouldn’t work. It works on women because it’s much easier."
Sisulu, who had earlier said she was in a calm state of mind as the race for ANC president was heating up, said that the "royalty" comments also reminded her of a time when black people weren’t expected to stand up to white people.
"They would say you are a cheeky such and such.
"And when you are a woman and you can stand up for what you believe in, there must be something that they use to pull you down."
She said it was a pity that a surname, which she respected, was being targeted.
"When we buried my father he had [previously] wanted to write an epitaph and in that he had [wanted to say]: 'I came in this world and worked for the African Congress, I gave my life, and wanted nothing in return' – because that is the ethos that family represents, so I take umbrage," explained Sisulu.
"On my side I had expected that there would be a pull down syndrome. This is nothing, it’s water off a duck’s back," she said.
The human settlements minister also tried to give clarity on her public tiff with Mantashe after the secretary general had publicly said he felt Ramaphosa should become the ANC’s next president and that another presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma should become his deputy.
Sisulu, who said she wrote to Mantashe over the matter, took issue with Mantashe's alleged sentiment that he believed the road to the ANC’s elective conference in December would be too difficult for women to manage.
"And now here I am, a candidate who is a woman and the first thing is [that] what he is saying indicates to me the deep levels of patriarchy in our society – that it is possible that it can be said in a public space that a woman would not be able to manage," said Sisulu.
The minister also took offence with the ANC’s parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu’s public reaction to her comments about Mantashe, saying she also wrote him a letter.
Mthembu said on social media that Sisulu was "politically immature" and that she had "lost her marbels [sic]".
Sisulu told News24: "Our question is why would the chief whip of the party respond to something that is in the newspaper without checking? His position would have been to check, to know what’s going on."
She also said she was not too sure if dirty tricks were not at play during the misunderstandings between the three leaders.
Although the presidential hopeful hasn’t kept a close eye on happenings in the lead up to the conference, she says her council members do so and often meet to analyse developments.
This includes concerns over disputes stemming from the branch general meetings where ANC members nominate leaders they wish to see take over when President Jacob Zuma and his National Executive Committee step down next month.
"The SG’s office must resolve all issues quickly," said Sisulu.
In responding to fears over whether or not the December conference will go ahead as planned or be postponed, she said the ANC still had to go ahead with the planned conference.
"[The] conference, if it doesn’t take place, we will be in real trouble in 2019. We can't not have a conference," said Sisulu.
She also asked the media to give the party space, and not to negate the gains it has made thus far.