Former president Kgalema Motlanthe. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - The African National Congress has backtracked on the appointment last month of former president Kgalema Motlanthe to head an investigation into the formation of smaller parties ahead of May 8 national elections.

In a statement released late Thursday, the governing party said Motlanthe was no longer part of the investigating team announced in June.

"The ANC confirms that indeed comrade Motlanthe ... declined due to prior international and local obligations, which made it impossible for him to take on the tasks as requested by officials, given the short time frames for the investigation. The ANC officials will discuss the matter and reconstitute the team to carry out this internal and all important organisational matter." the party said.

The Sowetan newspaper reported early Thursday that the ANC had not spoken to Motlanthe prior to announcing the investigation. It said the former president chastised the party for going public and announcing him and other members of the team without first consulting them.

Former speaker of the National Assembly Frene Ginwala and Advocate Fezeka Magano are part of the originally announced three-member team.  

The proposed probe stems from allegations that ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma played a major role in the establishment of the African Transformation Movement (ATM), formed by different church groups ahead of the May 8 general elections.

The ATM, led by Vuyulwethu Zungula, was one of the new political parties formed to allegedly undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa's leadership of the ANC.

In announcing the investigation last month, the party said the terms of reference had been finalised and the team was expected to complete its work within two months. 

African News Agency/ANA