The African National Congress (ANC) would be "limping today" if it did not vote for a unity slate at its elective conference in Nasrec, the party's deputy president David Mabuza said on Wednesday.
Mabuza was speaking to journalists during his party's campaign trail in Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) midlands.
Leading up to the conference in December 2017, most regions of the ANC in KZN relied on Mabuza to back their "faction", which wanted Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed former president Jacob Zuma as ANC president.
Most of the KZN delegates felt Mabuza sold Dlamini-Zuma out when she lost to current president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
But Mabuza said it was "impossible" that he "sold out" Dlamini-Zuma.
"No, it's impossible. I don't imagine how in a conference of more than 5 000 people, I'll know how all of them voted. It's impossible. I mean I only preached for unity and what prevailed is unity. That means the branch delegates heard my voice, heard my story and said it looked like this person made sense because if we did not go the way we went, probably we will be talking about the ANC that is limping today," Mabuza said.
He said ANC branches decided to merge factions at the conference to come up with a "unity slate".
"Remember, they took certain people from this faction and certain people from that faction and merged them. That's their own creation. I don't know who voted who, but the outcome is a combination of both," he said.
Asked whether he felt welcome in KZN after he allegedly "sold out" Dlamini-Zuma, he said: "KZN is my home. You can see I am here. I mean people will make stories, but not the ordinary people. Ordinary people will accept any leader of the ANC because they know the ANC, leaders of the ANC will come and go. Tomorrow, I won't be a leader, I must accept it. Tomorrow there will be a younger person that will lead the ANC. I must support that person."
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule said on Tuesday that the ANC was united ahead of the manifesto launch on Saturday in Durban despite media reports that the ANC KZN remained divided after its elective conference.
Magashule said Zuma and Ramaphosa were together in Ohlange in Inanda on Tuesday to show that there was unity in the party.
"There's no doubt that Ramaphosa is the president. We must respect current leadership of the party," he said.
He said former and current national executive committee members were also deployed across the province on Tuesday to further demonstrate unity.