ANC KZN committee co-ordinator Zihle Zikalala dismissed reports that Jacob Zuma supporters were holding talks to discredit President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Johannesburg - African National Congress (ANC) KwaZulu-Natal interim committee co-ordinator Zihle Zikalala on Sunday dismissed media reports that supporters of former president Jacob Zuma were holding secret talks to discredit President Cyril Ramaphosa and eventually remove him from the helm.

Zikalala dismissed the Sunday Times report as a "propaganda campaign" to sow division in the already fractured governing party.

''Many people would want to launch an offensive against the ANC using propaganda and divisive methods to undermine cohesion in the ANC. It is important for members of the ANC to close ranks and rise to the occasion... and be able to face the opposition and win support of the masses,'' Zikalala told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

''No one will support the ANC when it's divided; that is why the leadership, led by President Ramaphosa, have been advocating unity. So these are just rumours... we cannot play into the hands of those spreading rumours. I haven't heard of anyone in KwaZulu-Natal proposing to vote for anyone else except consolidating unity and ensure support for ANC come [the 2019] general elections,'' he said.

The Sunday Times reported that a new political party had been formed by Zuma's close ally Caesar Nongqunga, with Zuma's blessing. Nongqunga is president of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ. Leaders of the church reportedly held a meeting at Umgababa where a letter written to the ANC informing it of the decision to launch the new party, the African Transformation Congress, was read out. Several meetings had been held where a plan to undermine Ramaphosa had been hatched, the newspaper reported.

''The plan includes ensuring that Zuma's close ally Sihle Zikalala is re-elected party chairman when the province elects new leaders. The Zikalala-led executive would then call for an early ANC national general council meeting, which would be converted to a national elective conference to remove Ramaphosa,'' the report stated.

Ramaphosa would be accused of failing to implement party resolutions adopted at its 2017 Nasrec conference, including expropriation of land without compensation. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule was reportedly aware of the plan. Should the plan fail, the Zuma backers would encourage an overwhelming ANC vote from the province not to vote ANC nationally to embarrass the governing party. 

Zuma enjoys widespread support in his home province. Hundreds of his supporters donned ANC regalia and turned up on Friday at the Durban High Court where he finally appeared to face corruption charges. A night vigil was held the previous night in the city.

Zikalala and other Zuma supporters, such as premier Willies Mchunu, former co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen, and former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng were there to lend support to the embattled former ANC leader on Friday. Zuma was released on warning and the case was postponed to June.

African News Agency/ANA