ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA Pictures
Tshwane – Recalling President Jacob Zuma from the helm of the ruling African National Congress at this stage would tear the movement apart, the party's Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

"The ANC is under siege, with all forces including those allies believing that there is only one solution to our challenge – and that is of President Zuma stepping down. This subject has been discussed in the ANC many times. Our feedback is that if we do that now, we will tear the ANC apart," Mantashe said addressing the central committee meeting of the National Union of Mineworkers in Pretoria.

"That is what we came to [resolve]. We analysed on many occasions and we came to a conclusion that if we dare do that, we will tear the movement apart. We will have instant satisfaction and happiness but it will take us much longer to pick up the pieces of the movement. It will plunge the ANC into deeper chaos, with structures of the movement divided in many regions. You know that if we do that, we split KZN into two, immediately."

He said there would be "chaos" in provinces like the North West, and "disaster" in Free State. Mantashe said the ANC top leadership has resolved not to be "adventurous" on the highly emotive matter of recalling Zuma.

"If we do that, [recall Zuma], everybody will clap for us, everybody would be happy for us but the movement will be [torn] apart immediately. The formation of [Congress of the People] Cope, with the recall of [former] President Thabo Mbeki will be like a Sunday picnic. The option we opted for is to invest everything in time to build unity of the movement and work for a successful conference in December," said Mantashe.

"We think that such a formula will work much better for us than rushing now, because everybody is chanting Zuma must go. Electing a leadership in December will send a message that it is not about 'aluta continua for looting will continue'. We should elect leaders that will send a message that we are serious about stopping corruption and looting in the state. That is the option we have taken. You have the right to say it's a wrong option but we are telling you."

He said the ANC was not avoiding the subject. Mantashe addressed the NUM event shortly after the union's leadership on Thursday called on Zuma to step down and to be replaced by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.

In his opening remarks at the two-day NUM central executive committee meeting underway in Tshwane, union President Piet Matosa said South Africa needed “sober leaders”.

“The NEC [national executive committee] of NUM decided that Cyril Ramaphosa should be the next president of the ANC. Therefore we call upon this central committee [meeting] to endorse this decision and affirm in this regard,” Matosa said.

“We should ensure that comrade Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign journey is a success. This is the message we must take to our branches and those of the ANC. The deputy president of the ANC has always succeeded the president of the ANC. We want someone who brings hope that the ANC can be rescued from the current challenges.”

Matosa called on Zuma to step down.

“We are therefore saying President Zuma has to step down. He has failed to lead and unite our country South Africa and the ANC.”

Matosa condemned the “brazen unusual tendencies and the corporate capture of the South African democratic state”.

“The tentacles of the criminal network are long, scheming, and never cease to amaze. Thus, as NUM, we welcome government and ANC’s commitment towards establishing the judicial commission. It is clear that the courts of our country are going to play a very important role in days and months to come. Not because of temptation for judicial overreach.”

He said current developments, particularly the leaked Gupta emails, would land in the corridors of the courts and may lead to jail time for some.

“So there could be attempts to begin to defame the judiciary as a despairing tactic by those implicated,” said Matosa.

“The courts must be resilient and their independence uncontaminated. There is a possibility to target them and the judicial officers, given the current revelations which can only be properly and fairly be mediated by them. This must not be allowed to happen.”

A Congress of South African Trade Unions delegation, led by president Sdumo Dlamini, was also present.

A delegation of the South African Communist Party was led by second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila, who received a thunderous welcome from the delegates when he was introduced.

 African News Agency