The persistent battle appears never ending, going by the fresh accusations making the round in the country, regarding two prominent political heavyweight. This is according to Struggle stalwart Andrew Mlangeni’s hard-hitting new book, in which he says: “The ANC was the loser in all those developments but none of the two leaders [Mbeki and Zuma] was the winner. Therefore, the ANC and everyone associated with it were the losers.”

The veteran ANC MP’s long-awaited biography, The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story, is written by historian and senior public servant Mandla Mathebula.

Mbeki lost the battle for the ANC presidency to Zuma in December 2007 and was recalled nine months later in September 2008.

In the book, Mlangeni said a year after Mbeki’s ousting he remained pained by the events and observed that the ANC changed completely.

“It became very difficult to manage issues of ill-discipline,” said Mlangeni, adding that the problem of ill-discipline was never uprooted.

Mlangeni, who turned 91 on Saturday, said the ANC’s first real test after 1994 was Mbeki’s sacking of Zuma as the country’s deputy president in June 2005 following the conviction of fraudster Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s former financial adviser.

“That action, though, hardened the feelings against Mbeki from some rank and file members of the ANC and tripartite alliance with Cosatu and the SA Communist Party,” said Mlangeni.

However, despite Mlangeni’s misgivings about the Mbeki vs Zuma political battle, he said it did not pit him against either of the two leaders as he maintained a relationship with both.

“I joined the ANC, not any of the leaders. Therefore, I am not going to be a member of a member. As long as the two remain in the ANC, they will remain my leaders.”

Mlangeni, now chairman of the ANC integrity commission, also regrets the “loss of capable and valuable comrades” after the formation of Cope following the fallout between Mbeki and Zuma.

The Rivonia Trialist, who spent 25 years on Robben Island, is also critical of then safety and security minister Steve Tshwete’s announcement on television of a plot by Cyril Ramaphosa, now deputy president, Mathews Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale to oust Mbeki in 2001.

“The issue had never been discussed with us and it was a surprise to hear about it in the media. The announcement was not a good idea. It could have been handled differently,” he said.

ANC spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni and Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga did not respond to requests for comment.