Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed speculations of increasing tension between him and President Jacob Zuma.
“There is lot of love between me and the president,” said Ramaphosa during the SABC breakfast session, which included all top ANC officials on Monday.
He was responding to the Mail & Guardian report that his absence at the gala dinner on Friday caught ANC leaders, including Zuma, by surprise and that it might be interpreted by some within and outside the ANC alliance as an indication of growing tensions between the ANC president and his deputy.
It was clear from statements made by both Zuma and International Relations Minister Maite-Nkoana-Mashabane during the gala dinner that the ANC leadership was not aware that Ramaphosa would not be attending the gala dinner.
Before he delivered his written keynote address, Zuma took some time trying to clarify earlier remarks by Nkoana-Mashabane that Ramaphosa was on the programme and that he was expected to be at the gala dinner. “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.
While several ANC and government sources have told the Mail & Guardian about the souring relationship between Zuma and his deputy – which was caused by, among other things, the firing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister – the presidency issued a statement on Saturday dismissing reports of tensions between the two leaders as a fabrication.
Ramaphosa on Monday said there was nothing sinister about him missing the ANC gala dinner. He said the reason he did not make it to the gala dinner was because of the delay caused by the technical problem on his plane. Although he missed the gala dinner, Ramaphosa was at party’s main birthday celebration where Zuma delivered the January 8 statement on behalf of the ANC’s national executive committee.
“I wasn’t at the gala dinner because I have been sent by the president to South Sudan. The South Sudanese parties were getting together and celebrating the reaching of an agreement. Our plane had a technical problem. It’s an air force plane. We [got into the plane], but it could not start [the engine]. We then had to resort to a commercial flight. We had to wait for a flight from Kenya, the Kenyan airways. We went to Nairobi first and came back home [South Africa] at about 2am on Saturday. The dinner had just finished and I was very hungry. I had to apologise to the TG [ treasurer general Zweli Mkhize]. So there was nothing sinister about me not being at the dinner,” said Ramaphosa.