Johannesburg – The ANC's national working committee, including President Jacob Zuma, is expected to meet with a delegation representing more than 100 stalwarts of the ANC on Monday.
"Meeting with them is not meeting with the opposition, it's a sign of progress, a sign of strength," ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told News24 on Sunday.
The stalwarts had requested a meeting with the president over concerns they had regarding the direction of the ANC. They have called for a consultative conference to discuss the 104-year-old movement's future, with some calling for Zuma to step down.
The veterans, including Rivonia trialists Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg, had gone public with the results of their previous attempts at holding an audience with the president, saying many of their requests had apparently gone unanswered, while others were told to go back to their branches to raise their concerns.
They have also faced a barrage of attacks from some in the ANC, most prominent amongst those being chairperson of the Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans' Association Kebby Maphatsoe, who even questioned some of the veterans' struggle credentials.
"What was said before is now water under the bridge," said Kodwa.
A grounded ANC
His comments come just as the president intensifies his criticism of the stalwarts.
"Some of these people who have not been seen since 1994 all of a sudden they appear out of nowhere calling press conferences to express their concerns about our party," Zuma told supporters on Friday in Pietermaritzburg.
He said most of the stalwarts did not belong to party structures and were hiding behind their status as veterans to justify their actions. However, Kodwa insists Monday's meeting is a sign of progress likely to result in a more united ANC.
"The ANC must become a better organisation after the meeting because we are meeting those who came before us, who are part of the collective leadership."
He said the ANC had to emerge stronger and more grounded so that it continued to play the role of a leader in society.
Kodwa said the veterans of the party remained a fountain of knowledge during trying times.
"Their wisdom, as it has done before, provides an opportunity to build a strong ANC that is grounded and rooted in the values of the ANC during the liberation movement," he said.