Top ANC figures, including former president Jacob Zuma, are plotting in secret to unseat President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The Sunday Times can reveal exclusively today that Zuma held a clandestine meeting with staunch backers including ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba and ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo, at the Maharani hotel in Durban on Thursday.
The Thursday meeting was preceded by one the day before at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks. That meeting is believed to have been attended by Magashule, Mahumapelo and former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni. Zuma did not attend the Beverly Hills gathering.
So secret was the Maharani meeting that those who were present denied having met Zuma, even though the Sunday Times is in possession of pictures of them together inside the hotel, and outside when they left.
The meeting is believed to have discussed a fightback strategy that involves court action to challenge the outcome of last year’s ANC national conference, which elected Ramaphosa party president.
The group want to challenge the Nasrec conference on the basis of mass irregularities at branch meetings and the claim that a large number of delegates were illegitimate.
This comes as Ramaphosa’s net closes around those who were part of the rot during the Zuma years, with more revelations emerging at the state capture commission.
It is believed that the group have chosen the legal route after realising that they have been politically weakened, especially with the disbanding of the Mahumapelo provincial executive committee (PEC) in the North West.
Without political strength, they will not be able to push for an early national general council to remove Ramaphosa.
What particularly worries the bigwigs at Luthuli House is Magashule’s presence. As secretary-general, he is in charge of the dayto-day running of the ANC — while apparently also being at the centre of plans to undermine the party’s president.
The meeting was convened after 10am on the second floor of the four-star beach-facing hotel on Durban’s North Beach. Zuma came armed with a thick dossier.
The Maharani is known in ANC circles as Zuma’s preferred venue for holding unofficial meetings, even during his presidency.
Witnesses detailed how Zuma first held intense talks with Magashule and Mahumapelo before having discussions with the rest of the group.
The first salvo from the group was a letter sent to Magashule on Wednesday from regional executive committees in the North West, challenging the ANC national executive committee (NEC) decision to disband the Mahumapelo-led PEC.
Several top ANC leaders confirmed that they were aware that Zuma’s backers had held meetings to hatch a fightback plan.
ANC national working committee member and former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu said he had been made aware of both meetings. He declined to comment further and referred all questions to Magashule.
Other senior ANC leaders, who asked not to be named, said party officials have long suspected Magashule’s involvement in plans to dislodge Ramaphosa but never had proof to confront him with.
According to Luthuli House sources, Magashule’s diary indicated that he was supposed to be in Bloemfontein on Thursday. It mentioned no ANC engagement in Durban
ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala said there was no formal meeting scheduled for Thursday with Magashule or Zuma.
“I don’t know of any meeting this week,” he said. He did not even know Magashule was in the province on Thursday, he said.
When our reporter approached Magashule for a comment, he denied they had been meeting with Zuma. Several attempts to reach him later were unsuccessful.
ANC NEC member Enoch Godongwana said he was not aware of the meeting, and it would be worrying if Magashule participated in secret gatherings. “I don’t know about the meeting. I don’t know about its purpose. Maybe they were meeting for a birthday party… but if [it was a secret meeting] then it’s a problem because the office of the secretarygeneral is supposed to be respected. It’s supposed to unite us. If it becomes involved [in such meetings] then it’s worrying.”
Sabelo, who was confronted outside the hotel after the meeting, said:“I was driving in the beachfront and I saw the SG [Magashule] outside of the hotel so I stopped to greet him. That’s all. I had no meeting with the former president or with the SG. There was no meeting with the former president.”
Sabelo is a frontrunner in the race to succeed youth league president Collen Maine. Mahumapelo did not comment when asked about the meeting. Matuba denied having any meeting with Zuma, saying she did not see him in Durban.
“I was in Durban. But it was the day before yesterday [Wednesday]. I slept over at the Maharani. I did not see the former president. I just bumped into the SG but I was there for a meeting of the women’s league,” she said.
However, in the picture above, Matuba is seen talking with Zuma, Mahumapelo and Magashule. She was seen outside the hotel, subsequent to the meeting on Thursday afternoon, wearing the same pink T-shirt, grey jacket and jeans she was seen wearing in her meeting with Zuma.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, did not respond to written questions.
Responding to detailed questions about the Beverly Hills Hotel meeting, Myeni said: “No comment.”
ANC leaders with knowledge of the fightback movement believe the group are being funded by “tenderpreneurs who benefited under Zuma”.
Mahumapelo and others who attended the meeting got into two Mercedes-Benzes with Gauteng registration plates. One of the vehicles belongs to Myeni’s son, Thalente, who declined to comment.
The second car is registered to a company owned by the son of a well-known Durban businessman.
A top ANC leader said the meeting made it clear that Zuma’s fightback plan would start in the North West.
“We have been told about this serious fightback… the one way they are considering is the alternative political party that was formed. Then there is a fight to go to court and take that route. But the real purpose is to disrupt the momentum we are getting before elections,” the leader said.
Another party insider said Zuma was the ringleader of the group.
“Zuma has a grudge… because of his removal. That is why he is always in the public eye. He’s not campaigning for the ANC but against the ANC. He’s campaigning to the extent of not sleeping. He attends every function, funeral and church service — to make sure he’s in the public eye,” said the leader.
In the letter sent to Magashule on Wednesday, Mabuza Attorneys, acting on behalf of the North West regions, states that the NEC decision to disband the North West PEC on August 31 was “unlawful for failing to comply with the constitution of the ANC”.
The letter says the NEC decision was “underpinned by several material irregularities”, including that the branches and regional committees were not consulted.
Former North West deputy chair China Dodovu said it was not possible to reverse the outcome of the Nasrec conference or the decision to disband that province’s PEC.
He said Mahumapelo was using the same discrepancies he had raised in the run-up to the Nasrec conference as the basis for his challenge to the outcome.
“He was in the leadership when these issues arose,” said Dodovu. He said a process had now been undertaken by the ANC to address the problems in the North West. The removal of Supra gives the ANC a chance now to retain control of the province in next year’s elections,” he said. — Additional reporting by Sibongakonke Shoba and Ranjeni Munusamy – SundayTimes.