Johannesburg - As beleaguered President Jacob Zuma fights to remain in the Union Buildings ahead of the state of the nation address (Sona) this week, his supporters have come out with guns blazing with claims that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) president Cyril Ramaphosa is an "illegitimate leader".
In a strongly worded letter address to the ANC national executive committee, the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) on Tuesday accused Ramaphosa of being ''parachuted'' to ANC leadership and funded by ''forces opposed to the fundamental objectives" of the party.
The veterans even made startling allegations that Ramaphosa tried to poison Zuma.
''We are surprised and shocked that a member who joined the ANC only in 1991 has been elevated, with the support from banks, big business and white-owned media. Our leaders in exile warned us to be wary of leaders who will appear from nowhere and lead the movement away from its objectives,'' read the letter.
They based their allegations on the contents of Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie's book, titled "Kill Zuma - By any Means Necessary''.
In the book, McKenzie writes that Ramaphosa, a former Congress of South African Trade Unions leader, was ''handled'' by white-owned business and tycoons throughout the years, ensuring that he promotes their interests, leading up to his election last month.
''Ramaphosa is actually their creation and darling, that is really a cause for alarm and reason enough to seriously question both his membership and leadership of the ANC. He is indebted to white monopoly capital and they certainly will come calling - if they have not already - and he is obligated to return their investment [in him].''
MKMVA leader Kebby Maphatsoe is also Deputy Minister of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans. He is a staunch supporter of Zuma.
However, on Monday Maphatsoe distanced himself from the MKVA media briefing.
The four national executive committee members who addressed the media on Tuesday accused Maphatsoe of leaving the MKMVA in the cold immediately after Ramaphosa was announced as new leader of the governing party.
They said Maphatsoe started ''changing his tune'' after it was agreed that their letter to the ANC, which was critical of Ramaphosa, be included in the NEC agenda last month.
MKMVA executive committee member Sibusiso Radebe said the reason for Maphatsoe's sudden u-turn could be because he did not want to lose his Cabinet post under Ramaphosa.
Maphatsoe publicly supported former African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over from Zuma in December's hotly contested ANC leadership race that Ramaphosa won.
''We all know that Kebby is on record that he did not support Ramaphosa before the elective conference, he said it himself before the conference that Ramaphosa does not qualify to lead the ANC ... it might be correct to suggest that he is doing this so he can keep his post. What is interesting is that he somersaulted after the results were announced at conference,'' said Radebe.
African News Agency/ANA