Zuma camp sharpening knives for Cyril
Ramaphosa can expect fireworks as NEC meets ahead of elective conference
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe are expected to come under fire at a meeting of the party's national executive committee in Irene this weekend.
Supporters of President Jacob Zuma are expected to roast Mantashe in particular for his role in the disputed ANC Eastern Cape conference six weeks ago, when a pro-Ramaphosa executive committee was elected.
The Sunday Times understands that Zuma backers at the NEC meeting, which began Saturday and ends Monday, are pushing for action to be taken against Ramaphosa for being "factional" in having revealed his preferred line-up for the ANC top six during a rally last Sunday in Sekhukhune, Limpopo.
The Zuma camp is likely to cite a 2015 national general council resolution that bans the promotion of slates in support of their call for Ramaphosa to be censured.
Mantashe said that although the Ramaphosa matter was not on the agenda, it could be raised by NEC members.
"You can't predict what people are going to say when they talk. You can't say it won't be talked about," he said.
Ramaphosa, who is hoping to succeed Zuma as ANC president at the party's elective conference next month, shocked even some of his own supporters when he announced his preferences for four of the members of the top six: Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor as his deputy, former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu as secretary-general, Mantashe as national chairman, and Gauteng ANC chairman Paul Mashatile as treasurer-general.
The meeting this weekend is likely to be the last NEC gathering before the national elective conference.
There could be a sense of déjá vu during the debates; at a similar NEC meeting held before the Polokwane conference 10 years ago, then secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe came under attack from Thabo Mbeki's supporters.
You can't predict what people are going to say when they talk. You can't say it won't be talked about.Gwede Mantashe
An NEC member who backs Zuma said the president's supporters planned to fight for the outcome of the Eastern Cape conference - where, among other things, delegates threw chairs at each other - to be overturned.
"How could a conference sit when there was blood on the floor and the provincial chairperson [Phumulo Masualle] was in hospital?" the Zuma backer asked.
Neutrality in question
The conference in East London elected Oscar Mabuyane as chairman. His win was seen as a major victory for Ramaphosa's campaign.
Insiders said there was stalemate among NEC members about whether to nullify the Eastern Cape conference outcome or not.
Mantashe said he could not comment on the deliberations because any decision would probably change by the end of the meeting.
A senior ANC leader said that during a national working committee meeting on Friday, held to prepare for the NEC gathering, Mantashe had faced hostile questions about the Eastern Cape conference.
Some members of the NWC are said to have questioned Mantashe's ability to be unbiased at the elective conference because he has already publicly endorsed Ramaphosa.
The NWC ended up deciding that the NEC should debate the matter.
"We are saying the secretary-general has already made it known who he has preferred to win the conference. So how can he be in charge of that process?" the source said.
Ramaphosa's backers in the NEC said they would defend him and Mantashe.
"We are prepared to say that when President Zuma endorsed Nkosazana [Dlamini-Zuma] publicly he was not rebuked. They must be consistent," a Ramaphosa supporter said.
The impasse in the Eastern Cape, and a similar dispute over the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee, were expected to dominate discussions.