East London 2018-01-09 ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom ahead of NEC first meeting at the ELICC in East London Picture Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency ANA

Johannesburg - Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom has defended his meeting with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) where the removal of former president Jacob Zuma was discussed, saying parliamentarians meet all the time.

"I had a meeting with one member of the EFF at the time and when you're in Parliament you have such meetings all the time. I sat down and had coffee with one prominent member the EFF at the time, a meeting he requested, I should say. We discussed how to deal with difficult time in the country's history and there was no way I would refuse discussions of that nature. 2017 was a year in which we saw mass action...our country was in a crisis and we know all that centred around our then president," Hanekom told SABC news.

He said many political parties discussed issues centered around Zuma's leadership at that time and that it was well known that the African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee also discussed the former president in its meetings.

"We requested that he step down in 2017 and we did not succeed and the NEC first meeting in 2018, it was the ANC that instructed Zuma to step down from office which was the right thing to do. In the course of 2017, the matter was in Parliament and we had to discuss how to best handle the matter. I must say it's a bit about much to do about nothing...parliamentarians speak to each other. I don't know what the fuss is all about."

He denied EFF leader Julius Malema's allegations that Hanekom planned to form a new party if Nkosaza Dlamini-Zuma beat Cyril Ramaphosa to the ANC presidency at the Nasrec elective conference in 2017. Hanekom further refuted Malema's claims that he furnished the EFF with a list of ANC MPs who would vote for Zuma's removal in Parliament.

"That I certainly didn't do, he will have to provide that list. There was an assessment of what we can achieve, and if done through parliamentary means, what the ANC attitude would be at that time...that was the nature of the discussion. Those discussions were happening and that is well known. Civil society, which I am also part for as chairperson of Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was demanding that Zuma step down at that point. I supported that demand and it happened."

Hanekom came under fire on Wednesday following Malema's revelations to supporters in Pretoria. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, a staunch Zuma supporter, fired a salvo at Hanekom through a statement issued at midnight, calling he ex-minister a "charlatan and wedge driver" on a mission to divide the ANC.

"The agenda of the EFF by their own admission as an opposition party is to displace the ANC. They work fearlessly to divide the ANC and have a number of sleepers in the ANC proactively ensuring that divisions in the ANC are deepened. The ANC is working to unite its members and in our midst is Derek Hanekom, a wedge driver and on a mission to divide the ANC. Indeed, this charlatan is making his mark through his ownership of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. Hanekom does not have the capacity to form a new political party, but he has shown remarkable agility in his efforts to divide the ANC," Magashule said.

African News Agency (ANA)