“I contacted President Zuma… and we spoke telephonically last night [Wednesday], when I warned him that this disruption and abuse was planned. I told him I would not sit by and allow it to happen,” Zille said in a statement.
“He said he was not aware of the planned disruption. Yet, when it took place today [on Thursday], the president sat and observed events unfolding without taking any action to stop the abuse.”
Zille, who is also the leader of the Democratic Alliance, was supposed to deliver the welcome address at the launch. Zuma would speak afterwards.
“There was nothing coincidental about the ANC’s disgraceful disruption of today’s launch,” she said.
“It was clear yesterday that the ANC was planning to turn a state-funded event into a party political rally. They had organised vehicles to bus people in from other areas and distributed ANC T-shirts.”
Zille said she intended reporting to the Public Protector “the consistent abuse of state funding by the African National Congress to hold party political rallies at taxpayers’ expense”.
“The ANC clearly has no respect for democracy, and has no sense of the separation between party and state,” she said.
“It uses state funding as its private piggybank, and will continue doing so throughout the election, unless this abuse is stopped.”
ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said Zille could refer the matter to the public protector if she wanted to.
“We are proud to say that we have not used taxpayers’ money for a party political event. Helen Zille should know better,” he said.
“She was not scheduled to address an ANC event. It was a state event. If there were protesters and she was disrupted, it does not make it an ANC event.”