Cyril Ramaphosa to confront 'divisive' Jacob Zuma
President Cyril Ramaphosa has requested a meeting with former president Jacob Zuma at which he is expected to raise concerns about public comments by Zuma that fly in the face of ANC policy.
Insiders said Ramaphosa, who will launch the party's election manifesto in Durban on Saturday, has also been advised to discuss issues about state capture and Zuma's court cases when they meet.
The two sat at the same table for lunch at the extended ANC national executive committee in Durban yesterday. They were later seen chatting.
The request for a meeting comes amid fears in the party that some Zuma supporters might try to embarrass Ramaphosa at the manifesto launch in a province where support for Zuma is strongest.
Many Zuma supporters, especially in the troubled Moses Mabhida region in KwaZulu-Natal, have refused to participate in official ANC mobilisation campaigns and have organised parallel events.
Zuma recently released a video on Twitter in which he advocated the nationalisation of land - which is a policy of Julius Malema's rival EFF. In contrast, Zuma's own party stands for the expropriation of land, without compensation if necessary, so it can be redistributed to those who were dispossessed.
Zuma has repeatedly rejected evidence of state capture that took place during his nine years in office, but the ANC has pledged its support for the Zondo commission of inquiry which is investigating the allegations.
In September last year, Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule were among those who attended a secret meeting at the Maharani Hotel in Durban where a plan to undermine Ramaphosa and fight back was allegedly hatched. Magashule has since been told to keep his colleagues in the party informed about his meetings.
ANC insiders close to Ramaphosa said the president had been advised to have a "frank discussion" with Zuma and to lay his concerns on the table. "He [Zuma] is creating mischief and we can't have any of that going into an election," one of them said.
Zizi Kodwa, head of the ANC presidency, confirmed that Ramaphosa had asked for a meeting with Zuma.
However, he said the meeting was no different from consultations Ramaphosa had held with the other former presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. He said the former heads of state, including Zuma, were "a fountain of wisdom".
"The date for the meeting has not been set but there has been interaction between the two presidents," said Kodwa.
Zuma's spokesperson Vukile Mathabela had not responded to questions at the time of going to press. Party leaders hope the Ramaphosa-Zuma talks will serve as a show of unity ahead of the manifesto launch at a rally at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Ramaphosa's allies said that though they did not believe there would be a blatant attempt to embarrass Ramaphosa at the rally, those aligned with Zuma were likely to use the occasion to demonstrate his popularity.
"So the president will speak to former president Zuma about rallying behind the party's formal election campaign," one source said.
"When Zuma was president and Kgalema [Motlanthe] just tried commenting on politics, he was lambasted. How is it that when it comes to the party it's almost as if there are two presidents?" this insider said.
The meeting is not expected to be antagonistic but Ramaphosa's advisers have told him to clear the air "on everything like state capture and even Zuma's court cases". The sources said concerns included Zuma's failure to stick to ANC policy positions and "his centrality to divisions in the party".
While Ramaphosa is leading ANC events in and around Durban all week, similar activities have been planned for Zuma by his diehard supporters in the province.
On Friday, Zuma attended a meeting of the extended ANC national executive committee but did not say a word. Insiders said he arrived and sat at the back next to labour minister Mildred Oliphant.
The meeting sought to finalise the ANC's lists of representatives for the National Assembly and provincial legislatures after the elections in May.
A participant in the gathering told the Sunday Times that it was decided that more needed to be done to make the ANC lists racially representative, and it was agreed that lists must be consistent with each province's demographics.
"In the Western Cape there needs to be more coloured people on the list because that is the constituency, and in KwaZulu-Natal, because there are Indians, we said they need to re-look at the list," he said.
The party's research showed support for the ANC was diminishing within minority groups. However, its hopes for clawing back support in the Western Cape have been fuelled by internal discord in the DA, whose stronghold the province is, including the ousting of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
Topping the list for the ANC provincial legislature in the Western Cape is Pat Lekker, who currently serves on the community safety portfolio committee of the provincial legislature.
ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs said party officials would do more work to ensure wider representation on the ANC lists. There were no objections to the lists from the SACP or Cosatu at the extended NEC gathering as leaders of the alliance partners featured prominently.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, who was nominated directly by branches, is high on the list.
Before the manifesto launch, Ramaphosa will on Tuesday deliver the annual January 8 statement in Inanda.
Land and jobs are the priority issues in the party's platform for the elections.
However, preparations for the Durban event on Saturday have revealed cracks in the host region of eThekwini.
Several ANC branch leaders told the Sunday Times that they had not begun mobilising supporters to attend the manifesto launch due to lack of resources, support and guidance from regional leaders.
"We have not been given ANC T-shirts, flyers, loudhailers or money for petrol; some branch leaders have been using their own cars," one branch leader said. "The volunteers we work with do not have food, they are not provided with airtime to co-ordinate campaigns, and some branches have not even begun the work of mobilising."
Party sources blamed the paralysis on factional battles between regional chair Zandile Gumede, who is mayor of eThekwini, and regional secretary Bheki Ntuli. Gumede and Ntuli are expected to go head to head when the region picks new leaders after the May elections.
"It's quite sad how some branches are provided with everything while others have nothing, all depending on who the branch supports between Zandile and Bheki," said a branch leader.
After a meeting at the Pinetown Civic Centre last week, branch leaders said they had raised several issues that were impeding progress. Support and resources were promised, but did not materialise.
"We are aware that branches whose leaders are close to the mayor have received money to the tune of R6,000 while there are branches that have been ignored when seeking help," a source in the ANC's eThekwini regional executive said.
But Ntuli disputed this, saying all material had been distributed equally between the 17 zones in the region. - Additional reporting by Zimasa Matiwane and Amil Umraw