By Colleta Dewa
Johannesburg - All is not well within South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), though the organisation’s leaders are downplaying the seriousness of the rifts within the party.
The revolutionary party seems to be floating in divisions and factionalism.
The latest bombshell that exposed the party’s dirty linen was the admission by the party’s Secretary General (SG), Ace Magashule, Tuesday that he held clandestine meetings with former president Jacob Zuma and other ANC officials at the Maharani Hotel in KwaZulu Natal.
Earlier, the ANC, through its party spokesperson Pule Mabe, denied that its party’s SG had engaged with the former president who is largely viewed as the frontrunner for one of the factions.
The party, on Sunday, accused the Sunday Times newspaper of cooking up a storm after the paper published a story suggesting that the Maharani Hotel caucus was intended to discuss ideologies on how to topple current party President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The ANC will not dignify these blatant lies and fabrications with a detailed response. However, we would like to point out that we refute this shameless gossip,” said Mabe on Sunday evening.
Mabe went on to attack the Sunday Times telling them to retract the story.
“We urge the Sunday Times to immediately retract this story, which is nothing but incoherent political gossip that has the potential to undermine the unity of the movement.
“We also reject attempts to link our Secretary General, Comrade Ace Magashule, to this alleged plot to oust the President of the ANC, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa. It is clear that this malicious gossip is calculated to cast aspersions on the integrity and commitment of our Secretary-General to the unity and renewal project of the African National Congress,” Mabe added.
According to the Sunday Times, Magashule also engaged African National Congress Women’s League Secretary-General Meokgo Matuba and African National Congress Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo.
There was, however, hullabaloo from the party, as they denied the allegations.
Surprisingly, the accused Magashule was faithful enough to publicly admit on television that he, of course, held meetings with the supposed persons.
“Yes, I was in the meeting with former president Jacob Zuma as arranged. I did meet [former] President Jacob Zuma. The meeting was about organisational issues. It is not the first time I have met comrade Jacob Zuma and there was a need for us to meet,” Magashule said Tuesday.
Among the people who are believed to be obedient followers and sympathisers of Zuma is the ousted North West premier Supra Mahumapelo who was also part of the Magashule ‘convention’.
“There were many people there. I and President Jacob Zuma had our own meeting and after that, I think he met comrade Supra,” added Magashule.
Asked if other ANC party official were aware of his meeting with Zuma, again Magashule dropped another surprise, which raised suspicion even more.
“National officials of the ANC did not then know that I’d be meeting President Jacob Zuma. I just said that in our meeting of officials yesterday, I briefed them about that meeting with President Jacob Zuma,” he said.
Munya Bonjo, a political analyst, told The Southern Times that the incident was a clear indication of a divided team.
“Ramaphosa should wake up from his slumber and realise that he has surrounded himself with backbiters. I don’t think it makes sense that a secretary general of a party holds private meetings with controversial folks without the knowledge of fellow party leadership.
“The ANC might want to act clever and deny that they are no divisions or factions in the party but clearly we can see how fractured they are. I would advise them to mend their garment before elections,” said Bonjo.
Moussa Haraj, another political analyst, said though the ANC could be divided, the matter seems to have been exaggerated by the media.
“It is obvious politicians are bound to be divided due to one thing or the other but for journalists to make up issues is another thing.
“The meeting was held yes, but the journalist jumped into saying they were plotting to oust Ramaphosa. Do they have evidence or inside information about the contents of the meeting, I wonder,” said Haraj.
Plot or no plot, one thing that Ramaphosa is aware of now is that meetings are being held behind his back.
The ANC has never been intact since the ousting of former president Jacob Zuma earlier this year.
Insiders say the party is now divided between the Ramaphosa faction and Zuma faction.
Ramaphosa has also been criticised for surrounding himself with strong Zuma affiliates even in government.