Thabo Mbeki willing to join Cyril's council - 'but not if Zuma is on it'
Former president Thabo Mbeki has been accused of delaying the establishment of the "elders council" - an advisory panel of former presidents that President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to create.
Mbeki, according to his spokesperson, Siyabulela Gebe, is still thinking about Ramaphosa's request.
According to a source close to the president, Mbeki expressed interest in the idea when it was first presented to him last year, but his enthusiasm waned when he realised Jacob Zuma would also be on the council.
The other member of the council would be Kgalema Motlanthe.
"When TM established that JZ would also be part of the panel, he suddenly wanted to think about the proposal," said the source, a senior government official who asked not to be named.
However, Gebe denied that Mbeki was hesitant because of Zuma's involvement.
The head of the ANC presidency, Zizi Kodwa, said the intention behind the council was to make the best use of the "knowledge and wisdom" of the former presidents.
"Because of their involvement, be it in the party or in the state, they are a repository of knowledge and wisdom," Kodwa said.
"Nobody has indicated their unwillingness in terms of what the president wants them to do."
He said it had been hoped that the three former leaders would all be in Durban this week for the ANC's anniversary celebrations, and could take talks about the council further, but Mbeki was travelling abroad.
"All of them had agreed that if they did not have other commitments they were going to come here [to Durban] because of those discussions."
Kodwa said there was "no rush" to get the council up and running.
"I think let us [wait for] the end of the meetings that President Ramaphosa is going to have with former president Zuma.
"At that time the president will share what is the role and the function, and who has agreed."
Kodwa said Ramaphosa had explained his vision for the council "to all the people he has met".
Gebe said Mbeki and Zuma had a cordial relationship. The two last spoke on October 6 at the funeral of the minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa.
Mbeki had chosen to keep his distance from ANC affairs to give his successor, Zuma, the "necessary space" to take over the reins, and to avoid being accused of "ruling from the grave", he added.
"Like president Mandela, president Mbeki thought, and thinks, that it is important to give any new ANC leadership the necessary space to discharge its responsibilities without any undue pressure from the outgoing leadership.
"President Mbeki has, however, always been available for consultation by the new leadership, as is happening under the current ANC leadership.
"He has been ready at all times to assist the ANC as might be necessary and possible, after consultation with any current leadership."
Zuma's spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, had not responded to questions sent to him at the time of going to press.