ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula. (Supplied)
The African Transformation Movement (ATM) on Sunday profusely denied allegations published by the Sunday Times that it had links with former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule.
The Sunday paper reported that this link is alleged in an affidavit deposed by the suspended general secretary of the South African Council of Messianic Churches in Christ (SACMCC), Buyisile Ngqulwana.
The affidavit reportedly details "consultation sessions" held with Zuma at his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, and with Magashule at Luthuli House to discuss the formation of an alternative party to an ANC which is led by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"In an affidavit drawn up in support of an urgent electoral court application by the messianic council challenging the registration of the party, led by Mzwanele Manyi, and its intention to contest the election, Ngqulwana details 'consultation sessions' with Zuma and Magashule about an alternative party to the Cyril Ramaphosa-led ANC," the Sunday Times reported.
READ: Zuma, Magashule linked to formation of opposition party ATM - ANC 'expected' allegations
The ATM said it has overcome hurdles and obstacles through media reports suggesting Zuma was an "invisible hand" in the formation of the party founded last year.
In a statement signed off by its president, Vuyolwethu Zungula, on Sunday, the party said that it was "over all those" and was now "focused on our mission of winning these elections so that we are in a position to provide solutions to the problems faced in our country".
The party earlier this month also rubbished claims that it was linked to Zuma. Zungula told News24 during a sit-down interview that, while he found labels such as "pro-Zuma" and "Zuma party" amusing, he felt it could be detrimental to both him and his party.
"If you look at our gatherings from the first till now, there’s never been one mention of 'viva Zuma, viva!' Not even saying 'hands off Zuma', our manifestos, our documents, there is nothing about his rhetoric or politics that you will find. We have no association with the former president," said Zungula.
"The only engagement with Zuma was before the formation of the party," he said, adding that it had been a meeting with independent African churches, something he said other former presidents - including Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe - had done.
The statement by the party on Sunday added that the Sunday Times was "hell-bent on creating a perception" that Zuma and Magashule played a role in the formation of the ATM, despite both of them campaigning for the ANC.
"This is a deliberate ploy to cast aspersions on them to feed the so called 'fight back' or anti- [ANC President Cyril] Ramaphosa narrative which is desperately suggesting that new parties like ATM and others are their project to weaken the ANC. Sunday Times fails to see that the people of South Africa have lost hope in the ANC," the party said.
No right of reply
The party said it was never afforded a right of reply by the newspaper before going to print and that the paper backed its story with no evidence.
"Not a single evidence backing these claims was ever produced, not a photo, meeting minutes, voice note, nothing. The plan based on Sunday Times thinking that former president Zuma is a persona non-grata in the country was to stigmatise ATM so that the public rejects ATM. Instead the public saw right through such machinations and joined ATM in numbers," the party said.
Speaking to News24 on Sunday, ANC national head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, also dismissed the allegations, saying: "There have been negative stories. Not even a single Sunday has ever been good for the ANC."
"This thing that the SG [Magashule] has formed an organisation with the former president - we expected that [allegations would be brought by the Sunday papers].
"Such things will come out. Their authenticity and veracity will be tested as the time goes on. But we are focused on winning an election.
"The media never gave us a chance. We have never entertained such negativity. We have been focused. It is a headline that is designed to tarnish our imagine and drown our campaign," Mbalula said.
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