President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses professionals in Sandton, Johannesburg. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Free State Premier Sefora Sisi Ntombela on Tuesday reprimanded Dihlabeng Municipality mayor Lindiwe Makhalema for calling President Cyril Ramaphosa a ''sellout'' in a Facebook post.

The Facebook page is closed to at least 80 000 members of the African National Congress (ANC). 

One of the users reportedly asked the members whom they thought were the biggest sellouts, to which Makhalema replied ''Ramaphosa.''

Makhalema was reportedly rebuked by some members in the Facebook post who accused her of sowing divisions in the governing party. She reportedly indicated that she did not care if she lost her job and stuck to her guns.

Dihlabeng includes towns such as Bethlehem, Clarens and Fouriesburg.

Ntombela said the disrespect of leaders would not be tolerated.

"On behalf of the Free State provincial government, I would like to denounce the utterances by Councillor Makhalema with the highest degree of contempt. As a senior leader in government, executive mayor Makhalema is expected to know that her words amounts to the defamation of the character of the President of the Republic. I have already engaged with Councillor Makhalema on her unfortunate remarks, and she has agreed that her conduct was regrettable," Ntombela said in a statement.

READ: ANC calls for action against mayor who called Ramaphosa a 'sellout'

"President Ramaphosa is the President of the Republic of South Africa and deserves to be respected by all of us, especially senior leaders of government, who are expected to lead by example. We shall not tolerate any amount of disrespect towards our leadership."

Earlier, the ANC at its Luthuli House headquarters said it has recently found out that there has been an increase in attacks and insults to ANC leaders, especially Ramaphosa, and urged  the Free State executive committee to institute disciplinary procedures against Makhalema.

"The ANC believes that it is possible to express viewpoints without resorting to personal attacks and insults.The ANC social media policy’s (Rule 36) prescribes that any social media posting must be legal, ethical and respectful at all times while rule 40 prohibits members from utilising inflammatory language," the governing party said in a statement.

"We therefore find the recent upsurge in insults towards our leadership, particularly the president, extremely disturbing and view them in serious light. The use of social media platforms should at all times be in line with the ANC Constitution and Code of Conduct and seek to advance debates and discussions in a rational and responsible manner."

The Free State, under the leadership of its previous premier Ace Magashule, supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over ANC leadership at its December conference.

Magashule was since elected ANC secretary general and had to vacate provincial premier post. Makhalema is reportedly a staunch ally of Magashule.

African News Agency/ANA