Transport Minister Lindiwe Sisulu
The African National Congress's (ANC's) national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Friday heard heated calls for Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to be hauled before the ANC's integrity commission for defying President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Three sources attending the meeting noted that NEC member Derek Hanekom raised the matter on the second day of the meeting, hours after Sisulu had contradicted a presidency statement that said she apologised and retracted her controversial comments related to the judiciary.
Insiders said that ANC Veterans League president Snuki Zikalala added to the call for Sisulu to face the music following her controversial opinion pieces and public spat with the presidency.
News24 had been reliably told that first to raise the contentious matter around Sisulu's conduct was Hanekom, who proposed that the minister account for her actions and for openly defying the presidency.
News24 understands that as calls were being made for Sisulu to appear before the party's integrity commission, NEC member Tony Yengeni came to Sisulu's defence and made a counter call for ANC Limpopo chairperson Stanley Mathabatha to also face the music for jumping the gun and endorsing Ramaphosa for a second term earlier this month during the party’s anniversary celebrations in Limpopo despite the party not allowing for the opening of nominations.
"It was a very heated discussion. There were people were saying 'she can't get away with it'. Others like Tony were saying how come the president said nothing to Mathabatha when he pronounced on a second term [for Ramaphosa]," one source said.
A second source confirmed that there was a strong push for Sisulu to be sanctioned by the ANC and the president.
"She can't get away with it. She must face the music in the ANC and then the president must also act," the NEC member said.
The calls for Sisulu to face the music come after she initially wrote a controversial opinion piece attacking the judiciary and the Constitution, which was published on 7 January 2022 under the title, "Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?"
She later wrote two more letters that were also deemed overly critical of the judiciary and the Constitution.
Beyond this, Sisulu had also gone on to accuse the presidency's media team of deliberately misrepresenting the outcomes of a meeting she had with Ramaphosa on Wednesday.
In a statement on Friday morning, Sisulu said she was "troubled that the president's media team was deliberately mischievous in the statement issued as the minister at no point in the conversation was firstly admonished or secondly expressed regrets resulting in agreeing to withdraw or apologise for her article, but agreed to reconsider the particular line relating to the judiciary which the president had raised the issue with and was to share with her".
Her sentiments came after the presidency on Thursday evening released a statement saying Ramaphosa had met with her and admonished her about her attack on the judiciary, following which, the minister then retracted her sentiments.
The statement issued by the presidency on Thursday said, "Minister Sisulu conceded that her words were inappropriate and retracts this statement and affirms her support for the judiciary. I accept that my column has levelled against the judiciary and African judges, in particular, unsubstantiated, gratuitous, and deeply hurtful comments."
But Sisulu set the record straight in her own statement shared on Thursday night.
"I wish to categorically disown this statement in its entirety as a misrepresentation of the said meeting I had with the president. The president and I met on Wednesday at 21:00 at his house," she said in the statement.
"In such a meeting, he shared his challenge with one aspect of the article on the judges. The president proposed an intermediary that would focus on the one line about the judges to resolve that. I awaited such to be communicated, which would do nothing to the entire article.
"Under no circumstances did I commit to any retraction or apology since I stand by what I penned. The content of the president's statement in its current form is unfortunate as it is not what we agreed on. In this regard, I wish to distance myself from such."
Despite this subsequent statement by Sisulu, the office of the presidency said through yet another statement that it stood by its initial statement.
NEC insiders said concerns were raised about discipline in the ANC and "the fact that anyone can say anything".
"There were calls for the disbandment of the disciplinary committee because it was said to be ineffective," a second source noted.
The bone of contention regarding the ANC disciplinary committee was, according to NEC members, the fact that the body was useless if it did not take proactive action and called in members for displaying behaviour that could bring the party into disrepute, similar to that displayed by Sisulu and only waiting for people to be referred to it.
Mildred Oliphant, chairperson of the ANC's disciplinary committee, was said to have defended the body when it was accused of being reactive and failing to act with haste when party members stepped out of line.