Former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
~ Jeanette Chabalala, News24
The ANC "expected" negative reporting - such as fresh allegations that former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule had links to the formation of a new opposition party, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) - but added that "its authenticity and veracity will be tested".
The Sunday Times 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.
Speaking to News24 on Sunday, ANC campaign manager Fikile Mbalula dismissed the allegations, saying: "There have been negative stories. Not even a single Sunday has ever been good for the ANC."
'We expected that'
"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.
The ATM was established in October 2018 by the SACMCC - one of the largest church bodies in the country representing churches like the Bantu Church of Christ and Twelve Apostles' Church in Christ, News24 reported earlier. The party's president is Vuyolwethu Zungula, who was "hand-picked" by the council to lead the party.
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.
Zuma now linked directly
Zuma's hand in the formation of the party has reportedly been the subject of speculation in ANC circles. Now Ngqulwana's affidavit links him directly to its formation, according to the Sunday Times.
Earlier this month, the party rubbished claims that it is linked to Zuma, News24 reported.
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.
Sunday Times 'spreading lies'
Zungula laid the blame with Sunday Times for spreading "lies". He claimed the Tiso Black Star newspaper had refused to give his party a right of reply and had just referred to it as a "Zuma party".
"Sunday Times was basically spreading lies. We are a party that is formed for the people of South Africa, not to advance and to defend his (Zuma's) interests," he said.
READ: We are not pro-Zuma and Manyi is not our leader – ATM president
Ngqulwana's affidavit, obtained by the Sunday Times, now puts Zuma and Magashule firmly at the centre of the formation of the council and the new party.
Zuma reportedly even linked the council with Venda King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana when the SACMCC indicated an interest in acquiring the doomed VBS Mutual Bank.
The bank was reportedly going to be used to fund the election campaign of the party that would take on a Ramaphosa-led ANC.
In his affidavit, Ngqulwana says that the SACMCC was established in December 2017 after the ANC's Nasrec conference, and immediately mapped out a plan for a formation that would weaken the ANC and "could become the defender of former state president JG Zuma", according to the Sunday Times' report.
Magashule has dismissed the claims. In a tweet, he said: "The propaganda factory called the Sunday Times continues its fake news campaign. We are not products of the media. We remain unshaken & focused on an overwhelming victory for the ANC Victory is certain!!! We soldier on!! (sic)."
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