Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe once called Cyril Ramaphosa 'a white man in a black man's skin'
Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF seems to have backed the wrong horses at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung this week, according to ANC insiders at the event.
Not only is the newly elected top echelon of the party either firmly neutral or critical of President Robert Mugabe’s rule, but expelled ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, who has close ties with Zanu-PF, also wasn’t able to rejoin the ruling party.
Representatives from Zanu-PF at the conference this week were quick to point out the common history shared by the two liberation movements. Those with longer memories will, however, recall that Mugabe has little love for Cyril Ramaphosa, the billionaire businessman elected this week as deputy president of the ANC.
In his biography of Ramaphosa, Anthony Butler recounts an incident in 1999 in which Mugabe called Ramaphosa “a white man in a black man’s skin”, following negative comments on the state of the Zimbabwean economy in Business Day and the Financial Mail.
Mugabe also accused Ramaphosa of disowning his African roots for failing to silence newspapers that had criticised the detention and torture of two Zimbabwean journalists. Ramaphosa was at the time the chairperson of Johnnic Holdings, which held indirect interests in the two publications.
'Putting on the master's cap'
“There are some blacks who have acquired these media conglomerates. It appears they have joined these whites in attacking Zimbabwe. Well, they are black white men and they are really putting on the master’s cap,” Mugabe said.
Dr Annie Chikwanha, a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said she doubted whether Mugabe’s perception of Ramaphosa would have changed over the intervening decade. “One thing I know about Mugabe is that he doesn’t shift easily. He is a man who sticks to his guns ... I don’t think his position will change at all,” she said.
Zanu-PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo dismissed any suggestion that there might be tension over Ramaphosa’s election.
“Zanu-PF and the ANC ... are united by a common pan-African commitment to the liberation of our continent and our people. That liberation is not about individuals,” he said.
“It is the ANC which has elected president [Jacob] Zuma and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. It will be folly for anyone to bring into the picture any suggestion based on any individual sentiment.”
The Mail & Guardian was unable to contact Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba.