ANC members’ criticism of the party amounted to notice of their resignation, its national executive committee reacted on Thursday to a strongly worded letter from former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota. “Put bluntly, you and those who share your views are giving notice to leave the ANC,” Transport Minister Jeff Radebe, a member of the NEC, wrote in a reply to Lekota’s letter.

“For the record, the ANC is a voluntary association of individuals who believe in it, and who [are] free to leave as and when they cease to do so,” Radebe said.

“History is full of examples of such individuals. In the majority of cases, these were leaders who had grown too big for the ANC. “These people could no longer subject themselves to the discipline of the organisation. As such they either had to leave voluntarily or be expelled.

“We hope we have not reached that stage in your case,” Radebe wrote.

In a “personal open letter” to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Thursday, Lekota said the “unusual situation that has now arisen in the African National Congress and the tripartite alliance requires extraordinary steps”.

“I wish to place on record the concerns I see as gnawing away at the ANC with the hope that the leadership might wake up to the dangers our movement faces.”

Lekota wrote that he joined the ANC attracted by its policies, political culture, values, history and its commitment to the interests of the country’s people – black and white – and was still as fervently committed to this cause as he was then.

“However, for some time now, I have lived with a growing sense that our leadership has veered the organisation away from the established policy priorities and customary democratic norms of the ANC.”

Lekota claimed that those who expressed views contrary to popular opinion were later “hounded out” and “purged” from organisational and state structures, contrary to the ANC’s democratic culture.

“Sectoral and individual interests other than those flowing from the people’s interests as expressed in the Freedom Charter are elevated to levels of national priority.

“This, we are expected to show up at criminal court cases or carry shoulder-high individuals convicted of crimes unrelated to the demands in the Freedom Charter.”

Lekota said that instead of instilling respect for institutions of democracy, ANC leaders issue threats that if judicial proceedings did not result in “outcomes they prefer”, the country would be brought to a standstill.

“Lately, the leadership has taken a direct and unadulterated departure from the Freedom Charter by calling for a political solution in the matter of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions vs the President of the ANC.

“What happened to the Freedom Charter’s promise that ‘There shall be equality before the law?’ Or are we not to have political solutions to every citizen’s criminal case?” he asked.

Blatant threats to kill for certain individuals – if desires other than their own are not satisfied – were made with impunity. “When democracy-supporting institutions intervene to stop such delinquent behaviour more of our leaders come out in loud support for threats to kill.”

The list of these “excesses” and the “arrogance” which accompanied them grew by the day, Lekota said. “What resistance is put up by some in the ranks of members and leaders is harshly suppressed into tame acquiescence.”

He appealed to the ANC to reply to his concerns openly and frankly “so that everyone can be assured that the deduction that I and many other comrades have made, that the organisation is no longer pursuing the original policies of the ANC, is incorrect”.

Lekota said that if his concerns were not addressed to his satisfaction, he reserved the right “to decide what I’m going to do with myself”. Mandated to respond by Mantashe, Radebe expressed “sadness” that Lekota had chosen to communicate through the media, especially as he was well versed in the movement’s policies and traditions. He noted that Lekota said in his letter that the present state of affairs left him and “many other comrades” with a clear sense that their membership of the ANC was “an endorsement of practices that are dangerous to the democracy that many people in our country struggled to bring into being”.

In replying, Radebe reminded Lekota of the many comrades he had refused permission to speak in the NEC, “abusing your position as chair, simply because you disagreed with them”.

“Insofar as conducting meetings, the NEC, was reduced to an animal farm, where those who shared your views had a field day whilst the rest banished to the twilight.

“The unlucky ones were subject to your verbal assaults, privately and publicly.”

Radebe wrote that Lekota had presided over a “disrespectful discourse, which insulted former president Nelson Mandela. “… We challenge you to deny the fact that you did so”. “Your individual and sectoral interests prevailed upon you to officiate over such unwarranted attack upon an old man who thought of you as his own son.

“As a brotherly advice we suggest you visit Madiba and apologise. “Your behaviour and public utterances prior to the Polokwane conference were, to say the least, un-ANC.”

Referring to the high court ruling which found the prosecution of Zuma invalid, Radebe said: “We hope that all of us will respect all institutions that serve our country without fear or favour”.

To Lekota and “all your cronies”, the ANC said that what they were trying to demonstrate to the country was “nothing, but the last kicks of a dying horse”. “Remember that the ANC as an institution will stay forever while individuals like yourselves will go.”

Radebe assure ANC members and the country at large that the ANC had not deviated from its policies.