The unity and renewal of the ANC has been “turbocharged” after a heated national executive committee (NEC) meeting last weekend.
This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa who spoke to the media after a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of the late Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Good Friday.
Flanked by several ANC leaders such as treasurer-general Paul Mashatile and leaders known to be sympathetic to his political rival ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, Ramaphosa said that the meeting, which resolved that leaders facing criminal charges must step aside in 30 days, did not divide the ANC.
There were fears that Ramaphosa’s insistence on implementing the step aside rule would divide the organisation as several leaders believed he was targeting Magashule who is facing corruption charges relating to a R250m asbestos tender. He is out on R200,000 bail.
“The project of unity is what the ANC is about, it’s not about to collapse. Actually it’s being turbocharged to another higher level of vigour, of full commitment throughout the movement and we are serious about what the 54th national conference charged us to do: to unite and to renew the ANC,” said Ramaphosa.
Asked why Magashule was not part of the wreath-laying ceremony and whether this had to do with their political feud, Ramaphosa defended this by saying there were other leaders who were not present, including his deputy David Mabuza, Magashule’s deputy Jessie Duarte and national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who is one of Ramaphosa’s allies.
He said Magashule was in “Parys in the Free State and doing a whole lot of other things”.
Magashule is preparing himself for consultative meetings with several past leaders of the ANC after the NEC decided he must vacate his position by the end of April, failing which he faces suspension.
He is scheduled to first meet former treasurer-general and legal mind Mathews Phosa and then former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.
Phosa was one of the lawyers the ANC sought legal opinion from when they had to find out whether the step aside rule was implementable or not.
His opinion was that the party had no powers to suspend anyone refusing to step aside voluntarily.
He however later formed part of a team led by Mashatile and Motlanthe which wrote a 15-page document of guidelines on how to implement the rule. Those guidelines were unwavering on saying that those facing criminal charges must step aside from their positions and that the party could take disciplinary steps and suspend those who don’t step aside voluntary.
Ramaphosa said there was no doubt that the party was now forging ahead with renewing itself after years of disunity, being marred by corruption allegations and lack of quality leadership.
“We have no doubt that the ANC is going to be on a path of unity and renewal and I think that is something that you as the media should be encouraging and focusing on because the ANC is about leading this country to a better situation in the interest of our people,” Ramaphosa said.
“So you can’t say singenaphi, ningena kuyo yonke leyonto [what does that have to do with us, you have to do with all of that].”
Ramaphosa also confidently said the upcoming national general council could not remove him from his position.
This comes as those aligned with his rival Magashule are said to be caucusing on ways to unseat Ramaphosa.
“No, general national councils are not about removing or installing anyone. National general council is about reviewing our policies, the implementation, where we are, and thereafter we hold our policy conference, and thereafter we hold a leadership electing conference which is in 2022,” Ramaphosa said.
On Madikizela-Mandela, Ramaphosa said she was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her deeds.
“The deeds that fired up commitment and determination of many of our people to fight against the evil system of apartheid and she did so at a critical time — during the course of our struggle when our leaders were either incarcerated or when they were in exile,” Ramaphosa said.
“She fired up the movement inside the country and gave strength and courage to many of us because she was fearless, she was determined and she was the quintessential activist.”
Madikizela-Mandela died on this day in 2018 at the Netcare Milpark Hospital and was buried two weeks later at the Fourways Memorial Park in Randburg, Johannesburg.