Cyril Ramaphosa stared down his opponents at the weekend in an attempt to make the space to lead the party out of political gridlock, according to party leaders. The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will enter its fourth and final day on Monday, after intense politicking that saw jibes from each of the two main factions.
Leaders associated with the Ramaphosa camp were jubilant, claiming the meeting demonstrated that the president had control of the party. They also believed that their opponents were not able to land any damaging blows.
Former ministers under Jacob Zuma — Mosebenzi Zwane and Bongani Bongo — were labelled by the opposition camp as being among vociferous critics of Ramaphosa. This camp includes people such as Faith Muthambi and Thandi Mahambehlala.
Jacob Zuma attended the meeting, in which he was criticised for his claims at the Zondo Commission that some of his colleagues were apartheid spies who drove a conspiracy to remove him from politics. He is an “ex officio” member of the NEC, due to his status as a former president. Zuma did not contribute to the debate, according to one of the attendants, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Ramaphosa camp was confident it had demonstrated its numerical strength. It was adamant it was in a strong position to protect one of its stalwarts, Derek Hanekom, against any moves to have him disciplined for organising opposition MPs to vote Zuma out of office in 2017.
NEC members who were initially concerned whether Ramaphosa could take the fight to the Zuma camp felt emboldened after his remarks at the meeting, including his frank talk about his opponents’ desire to have him removed from office. He restated his commitment to the fight against corruption, said some NEC members. This had given his backers the motivation to fight on, they said. DM