ANC anniversary: Ramaphosa's gala dinner absence cooks up a stir
The absence of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s gala dinner in Sun City on Friday appears to have caught party leaders – including President Jacob Zuma – off guard.
Ramaphosa was away in South Sudan as part of his effort to help that country end its civil war and reunite the divided ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, but he was expected to attend the gala dinner – usually used to raise funds for the party. Ramaphosa’s no show at the event could be interpreted by some as an indication of an increasing tension between him and president Zuma.
Zuma, who appeared to be in the dark about his deputy’s whereabout, was forced to do damage control after ANC Women’s League treasurer and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told guests attending the gala dinner on Friday that the deputy president was expected to be at the event.
“Things can happen. Meetings can be longer than you thought. I think he [Ramaphosa] is on his way back. He actually said [to me] I will be back on Friday. I almost said to him, you might experience some difficulties. I used to have meetings [in Burundi] for 24 hours without stop. I am sure the deputy president is delayed somewhere,” said Zuma.
There have been rumours that Ramaphosa threatened to resign after Zuma’s decision to remove Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and replace him with relatively unknown ANC MP David Van Rooyen. But Ramaphosa has since rejected these claims. Zuma was forced to remove Van Rooyen and replaced him with Pravin Gordhan after he was put under pressure by business.
It was not clear whether or not Ramaphosa would make it to the party’s main birthday celebration at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg on Saturday.
Nkoana-Mashabane’s spokesperson Clayson Monyela told the Mail & Guardian that the deputy president returned from Sudan after 1.30am on Saturday.
Zuma’s address on Saturday was likely to focus on education, corruption and the economic transformation. In his speech on Friday, Zuma said achieving tangible progress in transforming the economy would be one of the ANC’s key priorities in 2016.
“At the centre of our work this year must be achievement of tangible progress in fundamentally transforming our economy to meet the needs of all our people. We must do so in the face of difficult economic conditions. Developments in the global economy – such as a slowdown in major emerging economies and a significant decline in the commodity prices – mean that our own growth will be constrained,” said Zuma.
“These conditions, while they may reduce the fiscal space we have, should not diminish our determination to pursue the measures – some of which are contained in our nine-point plan – to stimulate growth, encourage job creation and drive transformation.”
In what appears to be a move to prevent more #FeesMustFall protests in 2016, Zuma said the government would soon announce a commission to look at promoting access to higher education. Zuma said the party would continue its fight against corruption and that it would not tolerate leaders who brought the party into disrepute.
“We expect our cadres to earn the respect of their peers and society at large through their exemplary conduct. They must be informed by values of honesty, hard work, humility, service to the people and respect for the laws of the land.
“We must work together to defeat patronage, the arrogance of power, bureaucratic indifference and corruption. We must serve the people selflessly and tirelessly,” said Zuma.