Phala Phala: NEC must not remove president, ANC conference should decide, say Ramaphosa's rivals

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  • ANC national executive committee member Nkenke Kekana said the committee could not recall President Cyril Ramaphosa. 
  • Kekana, who is a key Paul Mashatile lobbyist, said Ramaphosa must explain himself on the Phala Phala saga during a parliamentary process. 
  • ANC presidential candidate Zweli Mkhize is expected not to agitate for Ramaphosa's removal from office. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa's main political rivals, Paul Mashatile and Zweli Mkhize, are expected to push back against calls for his removal during an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday.

A key Mashatile ally and lobbyist, Nkenke Kekana, said the NEC could not seek to remove Ramaphosa and that the president's fate should be decided at the party's conference.

The NEC was not competent to decide the issue on the basis of the Section 89 panel report on the Phala Phala farm allegations against the president, even though there may be a case for him to answer.

Ramaphosa should seek to clear his name in the parliamentary process and should not be removed as president so close to the party's conference, he added. This sentiment was shared by those in the Mkhize camp.

"Dr Mkhize's view is that the NEC would be well-advised to defer the question of whether President Ramaphosa should be forced to resign, or not, to the delegates who would be gathering in Nasrec in less than two weeks' time to decide," Mkhize's communication advisor, Vuyo Mkhize, said.

Mkhize's spokesperson said while he believed Ramaphosa should not be forced to resign, he would be guided by whatever decision the NEC takes.

READ | Phala Phala saga: Ramaphosa likely to survive NEC, ANC MPs to be instructed to vote against report

Ramaphosa opened the meeting on Monday morning but left soon after, saying that he could not be present when his fate was being discussed. 

The ANC's national working committee (NWC) resolved on Sunday that ANC MPs should not vote to adopt the Section 89 panel report, which would open the way for an impeachment process against Ramaphosa.

The matter is expected to be debated sharply at the broader meeting on Monday. Kekana told News24 that the ANC could not take action against the president on the basis of the Section 89 panel's report.

He said:

The NEC is not in a position to remove a sitting president, especially when we are about to arrive at the conference - unless the integrity commission reports that the president must step aside. Outside of that framework, the mere report of Parliament is just the beginning of a process that must be allowed to take its course.

Kekana added he believed that the ANC should work in the next two weeks to agree to an uncontested leadership race.

"I am still confident that there is still a chance that we can find each other [so] that there is an uncontested conference. Provincial leaders can come together and work out something that is palatable for the conference and for the conference to ponder over it," Kekana said in an interview with News24.

News24 understands that a meeting between Mashatile and Deputy President David Mabuza in Johannesburg on Thursday, while Ramaphosa was mulling over whether to resign, spooked his allies enough to convince him that his resignation would be "exactly what Paul wants".

Then, a seemingly unilateral decision by Mashatile to move a planned NEC from sitting virtually on Thursday evening, to an in-person meeting on Friday, proved to Ramaphosa's allies that his resignation would mean "handing over the ANC to DD (Mabuza) and Paul to do what they want to with it".

READ MORE: Ralph Mathekga | Phala Phala inquiry: Waters of Ramaphosa's anti-corruption fight muddied forever

Mashatile - who holds enormous power as treasurer-general, acting secretary-general and acting deputy secretary-general - is contesting the ANC deputy presidency at the conference, which is expected to begin on 16 December.

But those around him have hinted that given the Phala Phala scandal involving Ramaphosa and the Digital Vibes scandal involving Mkhize, Mashatile might make an 11th-hour bid for the ANC presidency. 

Kekana said that there were a lot of "rumour-mongering and distortions" about Mashatile in the run-up to the conference. 

Kekana said:

As per the Constitution, and it's not Paul's design, if the president resigns, the section of the Constitution kicks in, the deputy president takes over, and the Cabinet stays put. In a hypothetical situation, it would mean 14 days before the conference, there would be a new president.

He added that there was a case for Ramaphosa to answer and that he should face a parliamentary process in that regard. "We cannot use emotions; we can't use our historical dislike for the president to take a political decision," he said.

Kekana also said that the ANC integrity commission's report on the Phala Phala matter should set the tone for a decision by the party. That report, as well as a report on Mkhize's fate, should be considered by the conference before voting for the ANC presidency, he added.

"The integrity commission reports will be tabled to the NEC so close to the conference. They might be taken to the conference itself so that they become part of the debate around this very question of who is allowed to stand.

"It may be too late for the ANC to consider the reports. The integrity commission is the only mechanism the NEC has to intervene as far as the president's issue is concerned," Kekana said.

He added that it would be in the ANC's interests to have an uncontested leadership race at the national conference.

He said:

To allow factional leaders to determine the outcome of the conference will kill the ANC. It will really destroy the ANC's ability to fight an election because there will be disintegration as factions usually do that.

Mkhize's camp said Ramaphosa should not be forced to resign and that he should be given an opportunity to clear his name in Parliament.

"It would come as a major surprise if the NEC were to decide to scupper this process, especially given that it has itself previously called upon the president to do the exact same thing the Section 89 panel report is recommending," Vuyo Mkhize said.

He is expected to argue at the ANC meeting that he, too, subjected himself to a parliamentary process and was cleared by the legislature with regard to the allegations he faced.

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