Ramaphosa's allies believe they have the numbers to mount a fightback at NEC meeting

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
PHOTO: Brenton Geach, Gallo Images
  • One of the reasons President Cyril Ramaphosa told his close allies he wanted to resign was that he did not want the scandal he was embroiled in to affect the ANC's electoral performance. 
  • He was convinced by ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who reminded him that he was deployed by the ANC and needed to consult the party first.
  • Some leaders told News24 they were anxious about what Ramaphosa's exit would mean for his allies in the party.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's allies worked on a strategy early on Friday to mobilise ANC national executive committee (NEC) members to come to his defence in an effort to halt his exit. 

The president's closest allies argued that should be defended at all costs, despite his insistence on resigning after a finding in a report by an independent panel that he may have violated the Constitution.

At first, there was trepidation about whether Ramaphosa had enough support to launch a political fight. But his allies convinced him that they would be able to whip up support for him. 

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe was said to have been among those who twisted Ramaphosa's hand and said that he could not announce his resignation without talking to the NEC first.

On Friday, Ramaphosa's allies said they would demonstrate to the NEC that the report by the panel, led by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, was wrong in fact and law and that the president could not resign on the basis of a "weak report". 

An ANC NEC member who is loyal to Ramaphosa told News24:

We sat and discussed it... We were worried that we won't have the numbers, but we decided that we can't not fight. We cannot give his opponents what they want.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa told a group of his long-time friends and his closest allies in the Cabinet - during a series of consultations - that he had decided to resign because he did not want to be blamed for the ANC's ill performance in the 2024 elections. 

An insider who has knowledge of the conversations, said that Ramaphosa was resolute that while he disagreed with the Section 89 panel report, resigning was the right thing to do. 

The panel found that Ramaphosa may have violated the Constitution and anti-corruption laws related to his Phala Phala business dealings. 

Ramaphosa was convinced to delay announcing his resignation on Thursday even though he said he had no other option but to leave the Presidency. 

"He said it was better to walk away now. He does not want this cloud to hang over him and the party, and then he is blamed when the ANC does not perform well," the source said. 

Ramaphosa, the insider added, appeared unlikely to change his mind but his allies dug in, saying he would "give the country to people who had worse accusations hanging over their head". 

READ | Day of drama: President's resignation speech put on hold as Ramaphosa told to 'fight, fight, fight'

"He thought about it very clearly and said even if he challenges the report, it will take a long time for him to be cleared. That's why he said he was ready to walk away" the source said. 

In later discussions at his private home in Cape Town, Ramaphosa told a group of ministers who are loyal to him that he could not champion the renewal of the ANC with the Phala Phala cloud hanging over his head. 

"He seemed very clear that he could not champion renewal in the party when he will be questioned at every turn," the source said. 

Ramaphosa added during consultations that he wanted to announce his exit as president on his own terms - before the NEC was expected to meet. 

But, two sources said, Mantashe reminded him that he would have to speak to the ANC before talking to the public.

"The public did not vote for Ramaphosa; they voted for the ANC. So, he needed to speak to the ANC first and then announce his decision," an ANC NEC member said. 

While Ramaphosa's allies in Cabinet sought to convince him that he could fight back, the president seemed unwilling to change his mind for all of Thursday. 

He argued that he would be no different from those he was hoping the ANC would rid itself of. 

Ramaphosa only succumbed to delaying the announcement of his resignation after a call with a group of provincial ANC chairpersons. 

"That is when he realised he could not announce this to the public before he consulted with the ANC," the second source said. 

A provincial leader told News24 he argued that the Ngcobo report relied on no evidence and that the findings against Ramaphosa were flimsy. 

"I said, how can the president resign because of a report that has no findings, but there are people in the NEC that have findings against them by the Zondo report and that Zondo report has much more evidence than this report," the provincial leader said. 

At least two party leaders added that they were anxious about what Ramaphosa's exit would mean for his allies in the party. 

The NEC is expected to meet on Friday afternoon.

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