Zuma dinner had ANC unity on the menu
Guests asked to back plan to help party's presidential losers
President Jacob Zuma used his dinner meeting with the seven ANC presidential hopefuls to try to convince them that the party's constitution should allow for a second deputy president.
He is said to have told them it would ensure unity beyond the national conference because the losers in the presidential race would be accommodated in the new position.
Zuma made the extraordinary move of inviting the candidates to Mahlamba Ndlopfu on Thursday night as fears intensified of a post-election split in the party.Phosa told the Sunday Times that Thursday's meeting showed "political maturity" on Zuma's part and that the president seemed genuine in his endeavours.
"He was saying that we all have a responsibility that the conference goes smoothly and that there are no disruptions," Phosa said.
Phosa said that despite his and the other presidential hopefuls' harsh criticism and attacks on Zuma during their campaigning, their meeting was neither awkward nor personal.
"The president knows me for more than 45 years and he knows that I speak my mind and I am very frank. He was very mature about it," Phosa said.
Mkhize said Zuma expressed his concerns about the conference.
"We were invited and the president was saying he has concerns about the conference and we need to work together to unite the ANC and that we need to approach any campaign with a sense of delicate balance between people expressing their views and also creating tension, which might be resulting from the contestation," said Mkhize in an interview with the Sunday Times.
He alluded to Zuma sensing that the presidential hopefuls were not united after one of them announced a preferred slate earlier this month.
"[He] said we need to send a message that we are going into a conference to unite the ANC and to allow the delegates to choose amongst us. He also said we should all be prepared to serve together with those who are not successful within the part of the collective, and these are the sentiments we shared amongst ourselves," said Mkhize.
"We went through the discussion and, after all, there's no conflict amongst anyone ... there may be issues where people agree or disagree on different issues, but we remain comrades and the mood was very comradely and semi-jovial, although we had expression of all the issues that needed to be discussed along the lines of what contribution we can make in creating a successful, peaceful and united conference," added Mkhize.So far it seems that between the seven presidential hopefuls only two - Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa - would meet the nomination threshold and be on the ballot paper for president at the December conference.
Following the meeting, Dlamini-Zuma's team looked at ways of securing the endorsement of the other hopefuls in a bid to bolster her support and isolate Ramaphosa.
The Sunday Times understands that Dlamini-Zuma's team has now made Mkhize its No1 candidate on its list of additional 80 members of the ANC's national executive committee - a coveted position in ANC politics. This was after Mkhize met Dlamini-Zuma.
The Dlamini-Zuma team also offered positions in the NEC to Radebe and Sisulu, whom she has also met.