- President Cyril Ramaphosa extended an olive branch to the newly elected ANC KwaZulu-Natal leadership, which was made up of a slate opposed to the one that supported him.
- He embraced the newly elected leaders and called for unity in the party.
- Ramaphosa delivered the closing address at the hotly contested provincial elective conference.
Facing a tense situation and a crowd of delegates that was hostile to him after his allies had been heavily defeated at the ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa resorted to extending an olive branch to his detractors.
He promised to work with the ANC provincial leaders who were elected at the conference in Durban over the weekend.
Ramaphosa said in his address to delegates at the ninth ANC KwaZulu-Natal elective conference on Sunday:
I commit to working with the leadership you have elected. I will work with them in a relationship based on trust and a commitment to working together for the best of the ANC in KZN.
He assured the new leaders that they would be his first point of call if issues arose from the province and said he would not be taking counsel from those sympathetic to him who had lost at the conference.
Ramaphosa praised newly elected provincial chairperson Sboniso Duma, saying his assurances after being elected that he would not purge the former leaders demonstrated a willingness to unite and work together.
There had been fears that following their resounding win, the pro-Jacob Zuma slate would force the former leaders, led by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, out of their government positions to make way for themselves.
Duma led the so-called “Taliban” slate to a clean sweep over the Zikalala-led “Ankole” slate, which was sympathetic to Ramaphosa.
The new provincial chairperson demonstrated his ability to lead when he took charge of a situation which had threatened to throw the ANC into further disunity as delegates attempted to disrupt Ramaphosa’s closing address.
Duma took the microphone and gave a stern warning to delegates. “Whoever loves the ANC will behave and not dispute the duly elected president of the organisation.”
He urged delegates to “engage” with Ramaphosa and tell him what they were unhappy about, instead of booing him and demonstrating further divisions.
Ramaphosa relied on positive reinforcement and flattery to navigate the antagonistic environment. He cautioned the new leaders and delegates to remember that they had joined the ANC and gathered at the conference because they had made a commitment to the people of South Africa, not toward factional gains.
“You will show us what unity is all about. You have, frankly, embarked on a number of processes that united this organisation here. We must prove to our people that we can serve them diligently with respect,” said Ramaphosa.
Only a strong and united ANC is capable of transforming the country.
He lauded the province, saying that the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal had always been at the forefront of raising economic issues.
“When you raise issues, you should never think as KZN they fall on deaf ears.”
Ramaphosa also took a dig at former president Thabo Mbeki, who said that Ramaphosa and his administration had no plan to deal with the triple threat challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality. Mbeki had spoken at the national memorial service of late ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.
We should challenge the claim that we do not have a coherent plan to drive growth and create employment. Not only do we have a plan, but we are hard at work implementing it.
“The current problem of jobs did not start yesterday or two years ago. We have had this problem for a long time.”
He said he was working with social partners to come up with a plan and make compromises.
Ramaphosa added that his administration was making progress with creating a social compact.
His address was continuously disrupted by delegates who were leaving the venue. The ANC was quick to explain that the exiting delegates were not walking out because Ramaphosa was addressing them, but were continuing the concurrent process of voting for additional members.
In a media statement, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said it wished “to assure its members and the South African public that there was no walkout during President Ramaphosa’s address to its elective conference in Durban today”.
The ANC said confusion might have been created by ANC members leaving the venue while the president was speaking.
“We want to clarify that the reason why delegates left the venue was because they had been requested to go and vote for the PEC’s (provincial executive committee) additional members,” read the statement.