ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa places a wreath on John Langalibalele Dube’s monument. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/ANA
President Jacob Zuma’s removal as head of state will cost the ANC votes in rural areas and divide the ruling party.

This was the argument made by Zuma’s backers, the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), ahead of the party’s first national executive committee meeting on Wednesday.

Knives are out for Zuma, with his detractors calling for the NEC to recall him from the Union Buildings to bolster the party’s chances in the 2019 elections.

The push to oust Zuma forced ANC officials to visit KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday in what was believed to be part of efforts to manage the backlash that could arise should Zuma be recalled.

On Monday ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and other party officials continued with unity efforts in KZN ahead of the party’s birthday celebrations in East London in the Eastern Cape.

MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe said that while Zuma was no longer president after the party’s national elective conference last month, he still enjoyed overwhelming support from party members and supporters. “You may undermine Zuma but if you remove him, there are people in the rural areas who will become angry and decide not to vote for the ANC in 2019.

Read: Zuma in the firing line as ANC big shots gather

“In the rural areas they love President Zuma a lot it’s only in your suburbs here where you hear a lot of noise because a middle class has arrived.

“These people who are making noise in the NEC about Zuma they want the ANC to lose elections,” Maphatsoe said.

He said the ANC under Zuma had failed to properly analyse the implications of removing former president Thabo Mbeki when he was ousted in 2008, which resulted in Cope being formed as a splinter group by those close to Mbeki.

“We were angry and we did not analyse soberly, so are we going to have every five years parts of the ANC going and splitting?

“We can’t have that, and that is why we are calling on all those comrades of the NEC to really consider the mandate of the conference that they must unite the ANC,” Maphatsoe said.

The ANC Top 6 will meet on Tuesday to finalise the agenda and preparations for Wednesday’s NEC meeting where they will discuss preparations for the January 8 Statement to be delivered by Ramaphosa on Saturday in East London, where the party will be holding its 106th birthday celebrations.

Also read: Fresh bid to oust #Zuma

ANC NEC member Fikile Mbalula confirmed that the issue of Zuma’s fate was on the agenda for tomorrow’s much-anticipated meeting.

MKMVA treasurer-general and Co-operative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen said the new NEC had no mandate to remove Zuma.

“We are just coming from our 54th national conference and in that conference there was no item that dealt with the recall of the current head of state. Practice has proven that it is possible for us to have a president of the country not necessarily being the president of the ANC,” Van Rooyen said.

Some provincial administrations had worked smoothly with the ANC while the party’s provincial chairpersons were not premiers, including in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and in the Northern Cape, he said.

Both Maphatsoe and Van Rooyen have personally defended Zuma over his controversial relationship with the Guptas and are seen as allies of the controversial family.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said yesterday that a rerun of the KZN elective conference would unite disgruntled factions in the province.

Ramaphosa made the comments at the gravesite of the ANC’s founding president John Langalibalele Dube at Ohlange Institute in Inanda, north of Durban.

Tributes were also paid at the grave sites of former ANC presidents Josiah Gumede, Pixley Seme and Albert Luthuli.

“We do not want a divided ANC here we will be working day and night to forge unity in KZN.

“We must proceed to unite this province and make sure that we move to a provincial conference that is going to unite the province,” Ramaphosa said.

KZN has a big number of ANC voters, which prompted Ramaphosa to remind members and leaders that forging unity was crucial with the 2019 general elections around the corner.

“We can’t go to 2019 divided the work of unity here in KZN must start as soon as possible. We must rid ourselves of factionalism. We must have one group that is united that will serve the ANC,” Ramaphosa said.

The party’s provincial executive committee (PEC), led by Sihle Zikalala, has been locked in a bitter court battle with former chairman, Senzo Mchunu’s supporters. Mchunu lost the provincial chairmanship to Zikalala in 2015. In September last year the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled that the PEC was null and void.

ANC provincial spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli said he was not aware of any decision by any ANC structure that the provincial conference must be reconvened.

“If the national leadership decides in its all wisdom that there must be a provincial conference, there will be a conference,” Ntuli said.

One of the chief applicants in the matter, Lawrence Dube, agreed with Ramaphosa. “This is what we have been requesting. We need to go to conference to have a provincial leadership. We need a neutral structure, perhaps in a form of a task team, to prepare for that,” Dube said.

Political Bureau