The ANC does not expect the grievances of suspended former chairman Mosiuoa Lekota and others to be resolved, party president Jacob Zuma indicated on Wednesday.

“They say: ‘We are serving divorce papers, we are working on the process of calling a convention, and thereafter there will be the [new political] party’,” Zuma said in a television interview.

“So you can see, these people are not saying: ‘We’ve got grievances. We want these grievances attended to’. “So, naturally it’s clear that probably the question of the [grievance] procedures we are going to follow are just going to be formalities.”

Zuma conceded that the ANC was losing leaders of the “previous generation”, but this did not mean the ANC’s unity was necessarily under severe threat.

“A few comrades” had taken a decision to part with the ANC, and this was a challenge the ANC had faced in the past and had to deal with responsibly.

Regarding the two separate ANC meetings – one addressed by Lekota and the other by Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan – held in the Western Cape at the weekend, Zuma said this did not necessarily mean the ANC was split down the middle. “There might be specific issues in the Western Cape that makes that province look in a particular way. I don’t think you could have found the same situation repeating itself in each and every province.”

Even before Lekota went to the Western Cape, when the provincial conference was held recently, there were people protesting and saying they were unhappy. “So it was not just [Lekota].” This indicated the problems of the Western Cape in a particular way.

“I think it could not be assumed that this is what is happening throughout the country in all the provinces.”

Asked about the “radical action” he stated earlier had to be taken, Zuma said he could not “spell out the details of what the [ANC] NEC (national executive committee) is going to be doing”.

“Certainly there is no organisation that could just stand [by] when people use it to undermine it, or even attempt to destroy it. They’ve got to take action, particularly because as an organisation we have rules and a constitution within which we operate.” Even suspension of an ANC member was radical action, he said.

While he was concerned about “what is happening”, Zuma said the crowds of people attending meetings held by Lekota in the Western and Eastern Cape did not necessarily mean all those present agreed with what he had to say.

Asked about what appeared to be a “challenge” by former president Thabo Mbeki to debate his recall by the ANC in a public platform, Zuma said he did not think it was an invitation he would accept.

“I don’t think if there were issues that former president Mbeki thought needed to be discussed and debated, we need to discuss that in the open. Because the reasons that might have led the ANC national executive committee to recall Mbeki, they are ANC reasons.

“I don’t think that, to me, that is an attractive kind of proposal, because it says let us go and discuss matters, which I think are matters we need to discuss between the two of us, or within the organisation.”

On whether internal democracy within the ANC had been eroded under his leadership, Zuma said members were able to “discuss without looking around” and quite difficult issues had been raised. Those who made the allegation were people who had not used the ANC structures to raise issues. “They just say, well we can’t discuss matters,” Zuma said.

The Independent Democrats and the Democratic Alliance both criticised the SABC’s decision to give Zuma a lengthy television interview, the broadcaster reported. ID leader Patricia de Lille said it was “unacceptable and an abuse of the public broadcaster six months before the general elections”. She said Zuma was a political party leader and not president of the country, and the same opportunity should be extended to all political party leaders. The DA called the interview a propaganda exercise. In the broadcaster’s defence, SABC head of news Snuki Zikalala said the interview was planned to give Zuma an opportunity to explain how the ANC was dealing with the split in the party.

He said it was a response to many calls and letters from interested viewers.