Jackson Mthembu. Picture: SUPPLIED
Jackson Mthembu. Picture: SUPPLIED

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu says a Sunday Times report that former president Jacob Zuma secretly met top ANC figures to discuss a strategy to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa deserves “urgent attention” and he will raise the matter at the party’s next national executive committee meeting, slated for the end of September.

The Sunday Times reported that Zuma secretly met ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba, ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo and former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo at the Maharani hotel in Durban last Thursday to discuss plans to unseat Ramaphosa. The newspaper published photographs of them at the hotel.

Mthembu is a close ally of Ramaphosa and backed his bid to win control of the ANC in December. Magashule lent his support to Zuma’s favoured candidate, his former wife Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma.

Mthembu said in a tweet on Sunday, which he later confirmed to Business Day, that “the alleged clandestine plot, which regrettably includes the SG, comrade Ace Magashule, undermines the unity and renewal efforts of the ANC”.

“More seriously disturbing in the alleged clandestine plot is the undermining of our state in its efforts to fight and reverse impacts of ‘state capture’.” Those involved in this plot also wanted to undermine the ANC 2019 election campaign so as to produce disastrous results, he said.

The report said that in the meeting Zuma discussed mounting a legal challenge to Ramaphosa’s election as party president at the elective conference last December, based on claims that there were irregularities at ANC branch meetings and a large number of illegitimate conference delegates.

Sabelo laid a complaint about the report with the press ombudsman on Sunday. In his complaint Sabelo said he was never part of the meeting, nor had he held any similar meetings with any ANC leader.

He challenged the paper to produce evidence to place him at the meeting. He said he was driving past the hotel and had stopped to greet Magashule, who was outside the hotel.

The ANC issued a statement on Sunday describing the report as baseless gossip “intended to cast aspersions on the integrity and commitment of our secretary general to the unity and renewal project of the ANC”.

“Comrade Ace Magashule, like all other leaders, is focused on the programme of uniting the organisation as mandated by the Nasrec conference. Accordingly, comrade Ace and the entire leadership collective reject any attempts by agents opposed to the ANC to defocus them from the task of unity and renewal.”

Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko said the publication stood by its story. “We will wait for the office of the press ombudsman to forward us the complaint and respond accordingly,” he said.