The conflict within the ANC

President Cyril Ramaphosa (File, City Press)
President Cyril Ramaphosa (File, City Press)

The time for a decisive showdown between the two main factions of the ANC is now much overdue. The longer this is avoided, the greater the damage to country and party.

The secret meetings where former president Jacob Zuma, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, former Northwest premier Supra Mahumapelo, Zuma associate and friend Dudu Myeni and senior Women's and Youth League leaders apparently conspired against president Cyril Ramaphosa are just the right trigger for such a confrontation.

The next meeting of the ANC's NEC is the right occasion. Surely a matter as serious as the secretary general conspiring against his own president cannot be postponed or swept under the carpet.

This is what I wrote in this column three months ago: "Ace Magashule is the serpent in Cyril Ramaphosa's bosom, the Zuma faction's Trojan Horse in the ANC's top command. And South Africa is the victim."

Now there is a smoking gun, despite the ANC's bizarre efforts to deny (Pule Mabe) or sidestep (Zizi Kodwa) the facts of the case. More witnesses to the clandestine meetings in two hotels in Durban and Umhlanga have come forward.

A senior intelligence source who has never, over several years of our acquaintance, lied to me, confirmed to me that he knew about the plots against Ramaphosa and that the meetings exposed by the Sunday Times were not the first of their kind. He didn't want to give me more information, though.

The ANC's chief parliamentary whip, Jackson Mthembu, found the report credible enough to express his grave concern via Twitter. (I was reminded yesterday that Mthembu tweeted just before the ANC's elective conference in December last year: "I fully agree with @bhekicele that having @AceMagashule as @MyANC SG will relocate its #HQ to #Guptaworld and kill the ANC.")

If the conflict inside the ANC is not forced into the open now, the paralysis will simply continue.

I am one of many who are getting tired of lamentations by the Ramaphosa inner circle that he has to govern the country with one hand tied behind his back because he is being opposed and sabotaged by elements in his own party.

It has been stated repeatedly that Ramaphosa has to keep his party in one piece if he wants it to be victorious in next year's election.

My own stated view has been that it would be terrible for the country if the ANC were to fail to get an outright majority in the election, because that could bring us a coalition government with the EFF as partner.

We all know by know exactly who and what the EFF really is and what kind of ally it will be.

But Ramaphosa is now facing a new reality. There is a real chance that he will lose a lot more by avoiding a decisive showdown with his enemies in the ANC.

The nine months – it could be 10 or 11 – before the election is a very long time in the political and economic climate in South Africa today.

Ramaphosa is serious about leaving a proud legacy.  He won't if he is seen as someone who cared more about his position as president of the ANC than about his position of president of the republic. He will pay a dear price for that.

The ANC's flirtation with cheap populist politics comes from the Zuma camp and has already exacted a heavy toll on our economy.

The idiocy of deciding to change the property clause in the constitution before any impact studies, proper research or consultation is an example.

Perhaps concerned ANC members should get the list of the 86 elected NEC members and 20 ex officio members and put pressure on each one of them to put party and country before the politics of factionalism and of the stomach.

Step one would be strong action against Magashule.

Perhaps the ANC veterans should once more mobilise as they did in opposition to Zuma.

If played right, a showdown could be a win-win for Ramaphosa – he will have shaken off suggestions that he is a weakling trying to please everybody, and he will have isolated his opponents. He will at last be able to be the president he wants to be.

Perhaps a wee bit of kragdadigheid would be in order now, Mr President.

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