President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday toured his headache province, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), to try to stem a growing hostility towards him, with a message assuring his critics there that he and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were no longer adversaries.
Ramaphosa has battled for support in the province where some supporters of former president Jacob Zuma are yet to be won over.
Dlamini-Zuma contested and lost the presidency battle to Ramaphosa in a close race at the ANC conference last year.
But the firing of Zuma as president has become the source of discontent towards Ramaphosa and the ANC top six, particularly in KZN where deputy president David Mabuza is mentioned among those who are barred from setting foot in the province.
King Goodwill Zwelithini’s declaration to fight in defence of the land of the Zulu nation was seen as an offshoot of the brewing anti-Ramaphosa – not anti-ANC – sentiment in the province.
Yesterday, the president assured ANC supporters in KZN that he, Dlamini-Zuma and her supporters were one. He said he disappointed sceptics by appointing her to his Cabinet and even closer, inside the presidency.
“Her office is next to mine,” the president said.
He also wanted to put to bed beliefs that leaders elected from the Nasrec conference were not welcome in the province.
“Today we are here, KZN belongs to the ANC.”
Reaching out to Zuma supporters, he said he had spoken to Zuma the day before to commiserate over the death of his son.
A national executive member close to Zuma said: “It is only Ramaphosa who can stop this by coming out publicly and stating that the ANC was wrong in the way that it treated Zuma.”
The source said that Ramaphosa had been warned, including privately, that he had to avoid taking a posture that was seen to be anti-Zuma, to create for himself a solid platform to unite the ANC.
Although Ramaphosa has apologised to the king, Zuma backers said to appreciate the gravity of the matter Ramaphosa could have instead used the public broadcaster for a national address to clear matters with the monarch.
“Obviously that could have been preceded by appealing to people who can whisper to the king, like Zuma, to say that there is a misunderstanding and the president would like to set the record straight and offer an apology.”
Mabuza told City Press in an interview that “all those things that there are no-go areas are petty issues because they do not speak to what the ANC stands for”.
“Those differences are not ideological, but personal differences that do not speak to the objectives of the ANC,” he said.
Mabuza said the current generation of ANC leadership had a responsibility to rise to the challenge “because we cannot fight about personal things and in the process destroy the ANC”.
“Let’s elevate the ANC because what made us know each other is the ANC, so let us elevate the ANC. I’m not worried about no-go areas because finally my duty is to persuade comrades to see the bigger picture, to say continue with the objectives of the ANC because it is not yet uhuru.”
He said he was prepared, just as he was before last year’s conference in Nasrec, “to sacrifice whatever we have for the ANC to advance”.
“Some people sacrificed with their lives and everything for us to be here. I think on our part it is a failure to elevate the ANC and push back our personal desires so that the ANC could advance,” said Mabuza.
He said: “The ANC is not about an individual, but an institution itself that must be protected and those participating must always try and save the life of this institution.
“So we are not going to be tempted to react to things that do not speak to the life of the ANC. And we are going to reprimand those comrades who seek to deviate from things that will save the life of the ANC. We will refuse things that will destroy the ANC.”
Mabuza said another view in the ANC was that “unity in this movement is a continuous project”.
“But this time this disunity is threatening the life of the ANC and that is why we are all standing up, so the degree of disunity must always be at an acceptable level so that this living organism must survive.”
Former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo is said to be among those who challenged the ANC’s posture on Zuma in a national executive committee meeting, saying that it violated the rule of law, equality before the law, and the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.