Picture: @MYANC/Tweeter
East London - President Jacob Zuma stole the limelight on Friday when he unexpectedly arrived at the ANC's gala dinner on the eve of the party's 106th anniversary celebrations.

The ANC today held its birthday celebrations in East London where it was commemorating its formation in 1912.

While new party president Cyril Ramaphosa's embarked on a unity charm offensive enjoyed overwhelming reception as when delivered the main speech for the night, attention was on Zuma when he arrived and occupied one of the front tables at the event. 

The event was scheduled to start around 6pm but was delayed by more than three hours.

The glittering, held East London International Convention Centre, was organised by the Progressive Business Forum, an organisation of ANC members who are in business.

Zuma's arrival at the event, just before the programme started, saw an eruption of applause and ululation from those who were inside the dinner.

In his table, Zuma was accompanied by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta who was in the country to the attend the ANC's birthday celebrations.

With an internal discussion on Zuma’s future within the ANC about  his fate, Zuma the president was in good spirits amid attempts to recall him.

While talking unity during his speech, Ramaphosa however surprised the audience when he said he did not want to dampen the mood of the night by touching on what he would be saying during his January 8 statement.

Ramaphosa's ‘presidential campaign anchored on anti-corruption and anti-state capture both before and after his election last month, and his utterances about how he would dampen the mood if he touched on his January 8 statement saw attention being shifted towards Zuma.

Zuma has been implicated in numerous state capture allegations and this  has fuelled discussions around his possible  removal as state president by those close to Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa used the occasion admit that the ANC's new leadership had differing views on the way forward.

To applause, he said he however embraced the differences as this would ignite deeper discussions about the direction the ANC and country must take.

"In this leadership, we see different people, we also see different experiences.

"We are different, and that is the leadership that was chosen by the delegates at our national conference," Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa committed to leading efforts for unity in the party, which had been plagued by deep factional fights and internal strife ahead of its conference.

He said the electoral results had to be respected and that the new leadership had to be supported.

Political Bureau