Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the OR Tambo memorial lecture in Cape Town on Saturday. Picture: Ian Landsberg/ANA
Cape Town - ANC presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa made light of criticism that his OR Tambo memorial lecture was a “factional gathering” over T-shirts worn by his supporters emblazoned with his campaign slogans.

He was speaking at the Every Nation Church in Goodwood, where many of his supporters had to be bussed in by taxi, filling the seats of the megachurch.

Flanking Ramaphosa was former Cabinet member Pallo Jordan and ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs.

Also in attendance was former ANC premier Ebrahim Rasool, purged following the watershed Polokwane conference, and the previous ANC mayor of Cape Town, current NEC member and deputy minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Nomaindia Mfeketo.

Before Ramaphosa could start his address, the divisions in the ANC ahead of December’s elective conference were on full display as chairperson of the Dullah Omar (Cape Town metro) region, Xolani Sotashe, was roundly booed when he called out supporters of the party’s deputy president for wearing #Siyavuma T-shirts - the slogan for his presidential campaign.

“We are confident that we will overcome these challenges. The ANC will emerge after December. The only hope for the future is the African National Congress,” said Sotashe before the booing.

READ: #ORTambo100: Cyril takes potshots at Zuma in ANC's most divided region

But when he called the wearing campaign T-shirts “foreign tendencies”, the large audience who had been bussed in to hear Ramaphosa, turned against him.

“We must not allow foreign tendencies in the ANC. People must wear T-shirts in their factional gatherings. We are hurting the name of DP (deputy president),” said Sotashe.

Leaders in the Dullah Omar region have been vocal in their support for President Zuma and, by extension, for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Ramaphosa’s main rival for the ANC presidency.

Later, posting on Facebook while he was still seated on the stage next to Ramaphosa, Sotashe stood firm, saying he would continue the raise the issue of factional T-shirts.

“Whether they are NDZ, CR, JR, MP, LS or whatever, this is just not on. We must respect organisational programmes. We were invited to come and listen to the DP give a lecture on OR (Tambo), not a factional programme,” wrote Sotashe on Facebook.

Taking the podium, Ramaphosa at first agreed with Sotashe, saying that what he had raised was a “correct issue”.

“In Manguang, we discussed this thing (factional T-shirts), after discussing it the national executive committee discussed it as well. The NEC resolved that if we have ANC meetings we should take care not to wear T-shirts or caps that identify with one of the candidates.

“Now, wherever I have been going... we are saying we must try to forge unity at all costs and not try to do anything that will divide our movement because, one, we don’t have time, two, some of us will have to go to our branches BGMs, three, some of us are wearing T-shirts that I don’t see clearly here."

Ramaphosa said the ANC sought the wisdom of Tambo, wanting the honesty “that he displayed throughout his life”.

He said Tambo’s integrity - as well as his humility - should be the key attributes to guide not only the ANC’s members but also its leadership.

“The attributes by which he lived were reflected in the philosophy and the values of the ANC that he led, and he helped to shape. We should not only speak of this great man, but we should have the courage to embrace the ethos, the spirit and the vision that he had,” he said.

Political Bureau