According to TV channel ANN7, President Jacob Zuma said something to African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe‚ Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize to make them change their minds about his cabinet reshuffle.
ANN7 reported on Wednesday night that Zuma had questioned whether the ANC leadership would be ready to deal with the consequences of his resignation.
The exchange occurred during a special meeting of the ANC national working committee (NWC)‚ which took place over Monday and Tuesday‚ the channel said. The majority of provincial leaders at the NWC had supported Zuma.
Zuma had also forced Ramaphosa to issue a statement in which he took responsibility for postponing the official state memorial of struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada.
The postponement sparked widespread outrage and accusations that Zuma had put off the memorial out of spite‚ after Kathrada’s funeral turned into an anti-Zuma rally. Senior ANC and alliance leaders had spoken out about corruption and accused Zuma of firing ministers without proper consultation.
The NWC meeting happened this week as the ANC tried to regroup from the fallout of last week’s cabinet reshuffle‚ which has prompted calls for Zuma to step down.
At a media briefing on Wednesday‚ the ruling party presented a united front. It became clear that Mantashe‚ Ramaphosa and Mkhize had been made to row back from their public disapproval of the cabinet shakeup‚ in particular the axing of finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
Mantashe had said that he was “uncomfortable” with Zuma’s decision‚ which he said was based on a list that had been drawn up “somewhere else”.
Ramaphosa had said Gordhan and Jonas’s removal was based on a dubious intelligence report‚ which accused the two of plotting with foreign individuals to overthrow the government.
Mkhize said Zuma had “left a distinct impression that the ANC is no longer the centre and thus depriving the leadership collective of its responsibly to advise politically on executive matters”.
But at Wednesday’s briefing Mantashe and his deputy Jessie Duarte said Zuma had consulted the ANC leadership and had told the party’s top five in November last year that he wanted to fire Gordhan over the “irretrievable breakdown” in their relationship.
Mantashe denied that he and the other Zuma critics had been forced to apologise. But he said they had admitted that their public criticism had been a mistake. Unity was the priority.