After days of insisting that there was nothing wrong with ANC leaders travelling in a state flight alongside the defence minister to Zimbabwe, the party has been forced to swallow its pride and apologise for the exercise.
On Tuesday, the ANC vehemently apologised and vowed to reimburse government for its trip to Zimbabwe.
Senior members of the party travelled on an air force flight to attend a meeting with the governing Zanu-PF amid allegations of human rights violations in that country.
“In our quest to achieve this mission, we travelled in an unusual manner and profusely humble ourselves where we went wrong and will reimburse government for the costs incurred on behalf of our delegation,” read the statement by the ANC on Tuesday.
The apology came after the delegation led by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule met with ANC national officials on Monday and briefed them on the outcomes of their engagement with their counterparts.
The sudden change in tone is in stark contrast to the initial denial and insistence by the delegation that Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula went on an official visit and had given her comrades a lift.
Following pressure from opposition parties and civil society organisations, President Cyril Ramaphosa demanded over the weekend that Mapisa-Nqakula furnish him with a report regarding the trip and how the delegation made use of state resources.
This has since been done and the presidency has confirmed that Ramaphosa had been handed the report by the minister within 48 hours as had been requested, and he was still applying his mind regarding its contents.
The EFF was among opposition parties that called for the ANC to reimburse the state.Editorial | The ANC is taking us all for a ride
Contrary to their alliance partner, the SACP, who following their party’s weekend central committee meeting condemned “the growing authoritarianism in Zimbabwe”, the ANC said its meeting between the delegation and Zanu-PF was “successful”.
“As the ANC we would like to appreciate the success of our delegation mission of national interest to Zimbabwe with both hands because a successful and prosperous Zimbabwe as our neighbour is good for South Africa, the SADC region and our beloved continent Africa,” said ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe.
He added that the ANC “warmly welcomed the constructive approach of Zanu-PF with regards to the ANC meeting with other stakeholders, opposition parties and civil society organisations in Zimbabwe. In this regard, it was agreed that the ANC will in the foreseeable future return to Zimbabwe in order to proceed with these envisaged meetings.”
However, in Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF made it clear it did not welcome any intervention by South Africa because the country was not a province of South Africa.
Zimbabwean newspapers reported that South Africa had been told “to go hang”.
The meeting came after growing calls for intervention in the neighbouring country, with reports of mass violence, abductions and government clamping down on critics.
Following the meeting, the ANC has been criticised for failing to meet with other Zimbabwean stakeholders during its fact-finding mission.