Cyril Ramaphosa’s backers in KwaZulu-Natal appear to have been outmanoeuvred by President Jacob Zuma and his allies in the province.This follows talks this week designed to reconcile factions backing Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Zuma-Dlamini to become the ANC president in December.According to sources privy to details of this week’s negotiations between the ANC’s top six national officials and the two factions, the Ramaphosa camp was pressured by the ruling party’s top brass — led by Zuma — to apologise for taking the ANC to court.“As the provincial executive committee (PEC) we made it clear during our meeting with the top six national leadership that it was not us who violated the ANC constitution but those who went against the organisation’s ruling forbidding any member from taking the party to court,” a source within the PEC said.Zuma and the other top six leaders held talks with the two camps in Durban on Sunday and Monday following the fallout over the high court ruling that the PEC was elected illegitimately in 2015.The ANC national executive committee (NEC) was expected to disband the KZN PEC following the court judgment, but met fierce resistance from Zuma supporters in the NEC.“They rushed to court before exhausting all internal processes. The ANC top six has ordered the applicants to negotiate with us so we can find a way forward instead of them working outside ANC guidelines,” the PEC source said.The pro-Ramaphosa faction, which in court papers had partly blamed Zuma for the illegitimate conference, seems to have now made a U-turn.“It was a fruitful engagement — we are grateful that the president, alongside the top six leaders, gave us a platform. From the onset our aim was not to destroy the ANC but to build it into a strong organisation,” said the group’s spokesperson, Sthembiso Mshengu.After the meeting, Mshengu said all parties realised “there is more that unites members than that which divides them”.Provincial secretary Super Zuma said the NEC had taken a decision to support and join the PEC’s appeal against the court judgment, which it launched last week.“It is our collective and considered view that the judgment contains wider implications and has a potential to distort and weaken the authority of the PEC and NEC, which are the supreme structures of the organisation with the authority to lead and make decisions in between conferences.“We also welcome and commit to the ongoing process of engagements seeking to find a sustainable political solution to the challenges facing the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. “The PEC acknowledges enormous challenges subsequent to a divergence of views on leadership perspective leading to the eighth KZN provincial conference and how these have now evolved and impacted upon by developments towards the 54th ANC national conference,” he said.Zuma said two teams of three members each had been set up to ease tensions between the two camps. “On our side it would be led by provincial deputy chairperson Willies Mchunu. That shows how serious we are about this.”He said the discussions had started immediately after the 2015 provincial conference, but the talks collapsed due to the legal process.“We are resuscitating those talks now because we’re prioritising the issue of unity,” he said.The PEC wants Dlamini-Zuma to succeed Zuma when he steps down as ANC leader at the party’s December national elective conference.