Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the recent Eastern Cape ANC elective conference with an apology over his presence at the controversial gathering earlier this month.
But Ramaphosa’s apology – made on Sunday in Peddie where he met branch leaders of the Amathole region – has now become another issue in a political ping-pong game playing itself out in the Eastern Cape.
Audio recordings of Ramaphosa apologising have been widely circulated – with the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma-supporting Amathole regional leadership claiming that the deputy president had asked for forgiveness for endorsing the disputed leadership of Oscar Mabuyane despite the violence that preceded his visit.
Ramaphosa was the only ANC national official who attended the meeting, which elected Mabuyane as provincial chairman.
Mabuyane’s rivals, including then-provincial chairman Phumulo Masualle, left the venue as some delegates started throwing chairs, resulting in hospitalisation of at least 15 delegates.
The Dispatch has listened to the recording of Ramaphosa apologising.
He says: “This was never deliberate. It was never to put a particular agenda.
“Please accept this and understand it. I will inform them [ANC leaders] that you have raised this matter and I have apologised.”
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa denied that Ramaphosa had apologised for addressing the disputed conference.
Kodwa said the only thing the deputy President had apologised for was “using the term of ‘festival of chairs’” to refer to the meeting – where chairs flew as Mabuyane supporters attacked disruptive Masualle backers.
“This he explained even to the NEC. When he addressed the Peddie council, he was apologising for using that term, not for addressing the conference.”
Ramaphosa’s visit to Peddie was part of the ANC top leadership’s programme to hear disputes from branches. Yesterday the party’s national working committee met at the East London ICC yesterday to try and find a solution after Masualle officially lodged a complaint to the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, questioning the legitimacy of Mabuyane’s executive. The two-day visit follows yet another party decision to assign Zuma and his top six officials to visit the province this week, on a fact-finding mission on events leading to the violence.
The top six have led teams to each of the eight ANC regions in the province since Sunday.
It is said that branch and regional leaders at the Peddie meeting wanted Ramaphosa to explain why he came to “endorse” the elective meeting even though he was aware of the violence and why he did not visit those injured in hospital.
In another recording Ramaphosa is heard saying: “I did ask why are others outside the venue and this was explained. I did commit to facilitate a meeting which would bring the two groups together. Please understand the situation I found myself in because as officials sometimes we are put in those kinds of situations where if you go you are damned, and if you don’t go you are also damned.
“Please analyse this, and accept my apology.”
It has been reported that Ramaphosa also apologised after ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize questioned his decision to come to the conference despite the controversies leading to the election of the executive. Kodwa said yesterday’s meeting was to hear from the disputed provincial executive and also Masualle’s previous PEC.
“The PEC is busy tabling its report. The NWC will then craft a report which it will later table to the NEC,” said Kodwa.
Zuma attended a meeting – which lasted until 4am – at the East London City Hall on Sunday, where he listened to issues raised by BCM branches. Kodwa said the meeting was long because more than 100 branches had cases to present.
“The team wanted to give everyone a chance to express themselves. And that is good,” he said.
Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe led a team to Nelson Mandela Metro, while Mkhize led a Joe Gqabi team. Deputy secretary Jessie Duarte was in Chris Hani and NEC member Jeff Radebe in Alfred Nzo.
President Zuma’s team left East London City Hall after 3am, as different factions tried to convince the leaders of who was wrong and who was right.
Another marathon meeting was yesterday’s one, which kicked of with a 30-minute presentation by former PEC members led by Masualle.
This was before the NWC asked them to leave, so that they could discuss the issue in camera.