Maphatsoe’s about-turn on Dlamini-Zuma followed a unity meeting between the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), led by him, and its rival Umkhonto weSizwe National Council, under former SANDF army general and former minister of communications, Siphiwe Nyanda.
The two factions had in the past differed sharply on the ANC succession battle, with the MKMVA in full support of Dlamini-Zuma to take over from her former husband, President Jacob Zuma.
Nyanda’s faction did not make any pronouncement of Zuma’s successor, but want the entire ANC leadership under Zuma to step down and an interim leadership to be set up.
Before Monday’s meeting, the two factions were at each other’s throats, including making allegations and counter-allegations of death threats.
At the heart of the conflict were their choices for the ANC leadership, but due to the ANC’s intervention, the two agreed to work towards unity for the elective conference before June this year.
In a show of unity, Maphatsoe announced that the MKMVA had decided to respect the ANC national executive committee’s decision to “put a lid on the succession debate”, saying they had formally withdrawn their support for Dlamini-Zuma.
“You might be aware that the ANC has put the lid on the succession debate. We take the decisions of the ANC as binding to all of us. We will call a press conference after all processes of the ANC have been followed. We don’t want to cast aspersions,” said Maphatsoe.
This baffled the media as Maphatsoe – who is a fervent Zuma supporter – on Sunday attended a church service in Khutsong, Carletonville, where Dlamini-Zuma was introduced to the congregants as the future leader of the ANC.
Also in attendance at the service were government ministers commonly known to be pro-Zuma, such as the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen; Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa; and Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini – who is also president of the ANC Women’s League.
On January 7, Dlamini and the women’s league caused ruptures within the ANC when they pronounced that Dlamini-Zuma was their preferred candidate to replace Zuma.
The crisis was heightened the next day when Zuma delivered the January 8 annual statement and birthday celebrations of the ANC but failed to publicly reprimand the league.
On Sunday, the women’s league again defied the ANC when members gathered at Faith Gospel Ministries in their party regalia in apparent support for Dlamini-Zuma as president of the ANC.
However, Maphatsoe said the church service was not organised by the women’s league, but was an initiative of local pastor Bishop Ndlebende to promote women in leadership.
He insisted there was nothing sinister about his attendance of the service.