Ramaphosa calls on ANC leaders to speak with one voice, stop damaging party brand

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the party's leaders to speak with one voice and stop damaging the organisation's brand.

News24 understands he raised the matter during his opening remarks at the party's special national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday.

But, just days after Ramaphosa's message, ANC members were once again at each other's throats on Twitter.

Disgraced ANC member Carl Niehaus - a staunch Jacob Zuma supporter - called out the party's head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, on the social media platform on Wednesday.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom also entered the fray.

The spat between Niehaus and Mbalula seemingly emanated from Mbalula's war of words with ANC secretary general Ace Magashule during the counting of votes cast in the general elections last week.

The disagreement played out in the media, with the two men making claims and counter-claims on various platforms.

The verbal row was over the role each attributed to Ramaphosa's influence over the ANC's 6th elections win.

Also read: Twar rages between 'young chap' Mbalula and 'crook' Niehaus

Mbalula told journalists the ANC would have dipped below the low 40% mark had it not been for Ramaphosa and his narrow victory - over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - at the 2017 elective conference. The former sports minister referred to Ramaphosa as a "game changer" for the ANC.

"The ANC avoided the slaughter in this campaign. There are game changers that would have shaped this particular outcome. Otherwise, it would have gone down. The ANC has recovered even in areas where we had lost," Mbalula told News24.

Magashule, however, refused to support this assertion during his interviews at the Electoral Commission of South Africa's (IEC) results operation centre, giving credit to the ANC as a collective. He added that it was nonsensical to attribute the success of the ANC to one individual. 

On several occasions when journalists asked Magashule if the ANC president improved the party's chances of securing a majority win in the national elections, he responded with an emphatic "no", standing by his view that "it was a collective".

ANC leaders, including party chairperson Gwede Mantashe and outgoing parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu, also commented on the debate, crediting Ramaphosa for his contribution to the party's campaign.

An NEC member told News24 Ramaphosa was upset by the public slug.

'Magashule a worrying liability'

"He was not happy with the public divisions and urged us to speak with one voice. I expect this will be a talking point during next week's speaking NEC," said the NEC member.

Two others told News24 Dlamini-Zuma also complained about the matter, voicing her unhappiness about Mbalula's comments.

"She was very unhappy. Journalists asked her to weigh in on this issue," said another party member.

"Yes, yes, she complained about comments made by Mbaks," said another NEC insider, who corroborated the claims that the former AU commission chairperson was not happy about being dragged into a public tiff between party members. 

"The president was very diplomatic about this issue. He didn't make it about himself, but the brand, worrying about the perceptions this creates," said a third NEC member who spoke to News24.

One of the NEC members also told News24 that a time will come when several individuals will be expected to answer for their public utterances when the committee meets to review its election report.

"Magashule is a worrying liability but he is not the only one who contributed to the divisions during the elections campaign. He probably made the biggest blunders to date but so many of us spoke frankly in public platforms. I expect some eyes will even be looking at Mbalula and Mantashe."

During a live interview on eNCA last week, Mantashe was asked whether Magashule was a political liability, to which he provided the same answer three times: "The president of the ANC is an asset."

The public spat between Mbalula and Magashule, two senior leaders from the Free State, dates back to 2017 when Mbalula slated Magashule as an option for the position of secretary general, saying he would destroy the party if elected.

"Ace Magashule is a definite no no no, the man will finish what is remaining of our movement. He will kill it," Mbalula tweeted at the time.