- President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma as a sad moment.
- He said that despite the views on the sentence Zuma faced for contempt of court, the pain people felt should be acknowledged.
- Ramaphosa was addressing the ANC's NEC.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has broken his silence on the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, telling an ANC national executive committee (NEC) that the event is a sad moment in the history of the movement.
Before delivering his political overview in the virtual meeting on Friday, the president noted that many people were pained by the decision.
"Regardless of one's views on the Constitutional Court's decision and the appropriateness or lack thereof of the sentence, many within our movement and broader society feel this pain," he said.
Zuma was arrested on Wednesday evening after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt of court for disregarding an order to testify at the State Capture Inquiry, and sentenced him to 15 months behind bars.
He was imprisoned at the Estcourt Correctional Facility and prison officials said he would be treated as an ordinary prisoner.
"As we advance the principled stance of the organisation on our respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, we need to be sensitive to the genuine hurt that many people feel within our movement and outside," Ramaphosa told the ANC leaders.
He said the party leadership needed to continue efforts to unite and renew the ANC and added:
Before the ANC meeting, Ramaphosa spoke to KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala and asked for an update on violent protests against Zuma's imprisonment that ripped through KwaZulu-Natal.
Zikalala told News24 he believed Ramaphosa should consider pardoning Zuma in a quest to calm tensions, but political insiders dismissed the suggestion as premature and misplaced.
The NEC meeting came after the party held a special NEC meeting on Monday where the Constitutional Court judgment and its implications were discussed.
Zuma was told to leave that meeting and party leaders expressed concern that he and his supporters were undermining the apex court.
Ramaphosa told party leaders that the ANC must act as, and be seen to be, the leader of society
"Most importantly, if the leadership of the ANC is not respected, we cannot say we lead society. Leadership is earned through illustrating to the people that we respect them, respect the laws of the country and conduct ourselves with humility and integrity. We must deal with the issue of discipline and adherence and respect for the constitution of the ANC," he said.