Durban - ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa changed his tune on Monday after his unprecedented decision to announce a team he wants to lead the governing party with, saying the party's branches still have the right to nominate their preferred candidates.

Ramaphosa’s statement was issued following a barrage of criticism from the party structures - the ANCYL and uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association.

Read: Ramaphosa names his 'Winning Team'

Ramaphosa’s ally, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, was also forced to speak out against him.

In a surprise move on Sunday evening at a campaign rally in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, Ramaphosa unveiled national executive committee member and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor as his deputy and former KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson and premier, Senzo Mchunu, as secretary-general.

He also fielded Mantashe and the ANC's Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile as national chairperson and treasurer-general, respectively, on his slate.

While Ramaphosa welcomed the criticism, he refused to back down or withdraw his slate.

Also read: ANC leadership pronouncements unacceptable: Mantashe

“The names I mentioned for leadership positions arose from interactions and nominations emerging from ANC structures and should be understood in that context," he said.

"The views I expressed are by no means prescriptive and do not displace the right of branches to nominate their preferred candidates for any position of the ANC leadership,” Ramaphosa pointed out.

A source close to Pandor told The Mercury that she welcomed the announcement.

“When the announcement was made she was in Jordan, and when she was told about it she said she was happily available.

“But she said this matter was subject to the ANC processes, and that this should be left to the ANC branches,” the source added.

Read more: Ramaphosa defends 'winning team' pronouncements

Mantashe said Ramaphosa’s announcement undermined the right of branches to select candidates.

“Such pronouncements are unacceptable, whether comrades have a preference or not, and seek to usurp the entrenched right of the branches to nominate candidates of their choosing,” Mantashe said.

He added that the directive by the party’s national executive to ensure branch nominations are not tampered with, was part of doing away with slates.

But Ramaphosa’s campaigners in KZN welcomed Pandor as their preferred candidate as Ramaphosa's deputy.

The slate had previously informally nominated Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as Ramaphosa’s deputy, but they ditched her after she said she preferred to be the president, instead of the deputy.

Ramaphosa’s KZN campaign spokesperson Sthembiso Mshengu said Ramaphosa and Pandor would work well together in the presidency.

“We are certain that they will make a very good combination,” he said.

Political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni said while Ramaphosa’s move may have been a blunder, it would have little impact on his campaign, as the race was already riddled with slates.

“Those who support him will be relieved now that he has come out, as they will know who to organise themselves around.

"But those belonging to other factions will attack him and accuse him of promoting factionalism,” Fikeni said.

Fikeni said the culture of insincerity in the application of party principles was not only confined to Ramaphosa, but a general challenge plaguing the governing party.

But Ramaphosa’s move could affect his bargaining power, as he has left out some key senior leaders, including ANC treasurer-general, Zweli Mkhize.

The Mercury