President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown down the gauntlet to his opponents in the ANC leadership, daring them to try to remove him at the party’s national general council (NGC) next year.
His challenge came at the end of a week of increasingly bitter conflict in the party between the Ramaphosa faction and supporters of former president Jacob Zuma.
After a thinly veiled broadside at public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Sunday, Ramaphosa took the battle to his opponents in the ANC leadership on Friday. Insiders said he appeared to be in “fighting mode”.
Delivering his political overview on the first day of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Irene, Pretoria, Ramaphosa is said to have told the gathering he has “a date” with those who plan to use the NGC — due to take place in June next year — to oust him.
“He said ‘be my guest’,” said an NEC member who attended the meeting.
Another NEC member said Ramaphosa made it known he was not fazed by threats to remove him.
Ramaphosa is facing a simmering revolt from within the ANC, especially from those who opposed his presidency — and lost — at the Nasrec conference in 2017.
His opponents have been emboldened by Mkhwebane’s investigative report, which found he breached the executive ethics code when he failed to declare donations to his CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency.
Mkhwebane also found that Ramaphosa “deliberately misled” parliament when he said a R500,000 donation from controversial company Bosasa to his campaign fund was for work done by a company owned by his son, Andile.
Insiders said Ramaphosa again suggested Mkhwebane was being used to fight factional battles within the ANC.
Talk of a plan to remove Ramaphosa at the NGC started soon after he was elected at Nasrec. Recently, KwaZulu-Natal premier and ANC provincial chair Sihle Zikalala warned party members in his province that the NGC was not called to remove any leader.
But supporters of embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede told other provincial leaders that they would not be told by Zikalala what to raise at the gathering.
Ramaphosa’s detractors are planning to use his apparent unwillingness to implement radical policies such as the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank and the expropriation of land without compensation as grounds to propose a motion of no confidence in him.
Insiders who attended this weekend’s NEC said it was a heated meeting. It started with former state security minister Bongani Bongo, a Zuma backer, proposing that the NEC first discuss allegations that ANC stalwart Derek Hanekom, who was outspoken in his opposition to Zuma as president, plotted with the EFF to remove Zuma.
Ramaphosa was allowed to present his political report, in which he touched on the matter and made his views known, but the Hanekom matter was inserted as a final item on the agenda.
Ramaphosa is said to have advised the meeting to rather select a team to probe the allegations against Hanekom.
“He said we can’t just take matters off the
street and then take action. Matters have to be processed properly and discussed,” said an NEC member.
The president also weighed in on public accusations made by Zuma that certain party leaders were apartheid spies, saying it was improper to make these accusations.
Ramaphosa is said to have told the meeting that it is dangerous to accuse fellow comrades of having been spies, and that former president Nelson Mandela had warned them to desist from doing so.
Deputy minister of state security Zizi Kodwa told the meeting it was irresponsible to accuse fellow comrades of being spies.
“He said it was bizarre for a senior ANC leader to go around talking about who was a spy and who was not. And he [Zuma] was just sitting there with no response,” said another insider in the meeting.
Zuma sat next to former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane, another known supporter, at the meeting.
During his testimony at the Zondo commission recently, Zuma accused his former ministers, Siphiwe Nyanda and Ngoako Ramatlhodi, of being apartheid spies. This week he added Hanekom’s name to the list.
Ramaphosa’s detractors are expected to argue that a full investigation is warranted and that Hanekom should step aside pending an investigation. An NEC member said they would tell Ramaphosa that if the party did not take action against Hanekom, it would create a bad precedent.
“What could stop other comrades from working with the opposition to remove him [Ramaphosa]?” said the member.
In his address, Ramaphosa reiterated his view that the ANC must speak with one voice.
The meeting also heard a strong objection to party secretary-general Ace Magashule drafting party statements by himself, saying a team of party leaders must be responsible for communicating the ANC’s message.
However, the Sunday Times understands Mkhwebane’s reports haunted Ramaphosa on the first day of the NEC, as some members questioned why he was dragging his feet in implementing her recommendations.
ANC MP Tandi Mahambehlala is said to have told Ramaphosa to implement Mkhwebane’s remedial actions in the matter related to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. She is said to have told Ramaphosa that he had no qualms implementing Mkhwebane’s recommendations when he pushed out home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.
Ramaphosa’s defenders were expected to argue that the Gordhan matter is before the courts and only once the court decides on the matter can the ANC take a position.
Insiders said KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli told Ramaphosa that he ought to be worried that those campaigning for him raised more than R500m to make sure he won the presidential contest in 2017, as this promoted the use of money to win internal elections.
The movement of money in accounts linked to Ramaphosa was exposed in Mkhwebane’s Bosasa report.
Ramaphosa told the meeting there should be greater synergy between ANC NEC subcommittees and the government.
The meeting is expected to receive a national working committee report that recommends the disbanding of the ANC Youth League’s NEC.
– Sunday Times