'We will not be silenced': Ramaphosa and Nzimande hit back after ANC's NEC meeting

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa at Cosatu's central committee meeting in Centurian. (Paul Botes, M&G)

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa at Cosatu's central committee meeting in Centurian. (Paul Botes, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma’s dissenters in the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and the tripartite alliance have defied his warnings for them to stop criticising him in the media. They vowed to continue speaking up and encouraged alliance partners to do the same.

On Tuesday, Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, told members of the union federation Cosatu, who are attending its central committee meeting, that to remain silent on the wrongdoing of the state and in the ANC would be a “betrayal of the struggle.”

Ramaphosa has been officially endorsed by Cosatu to succeed Zuma. When the deputy president arrived at the committee meeting in Centurion, delegates sang his praises and cheered him on.

He told the delegates that they have a right to speak out.

“The ANC is your ANC.
It belongs to you. This is your movement. You are members of the ANC. Nothing should stop you [from speaking out]. You are members of branches, that I know for a fact … So national matters do concern you,” Rampahosa said.

“You must have the courage to speak out. Jealously guard the unity and effectiveness of the alliance and assert your role in alliance,” he added.

Ramaphosa’s comments follow a heated NEC meeting over the weekend, where Zuma survived another attempt to have him recalled as president of the country. The motion of no confidence against him was raised by ANC NEC member Joel Netitshenzhe. The  matter was deferred to the national conference in December.

Zuma’s supporters have been infuriated by public calls by the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Cosatu for him to step down, and wanted the NEC to make a statement condemning its alliance partners, the M&G has learned. But the rest of the NEC did not accede to the request.

Cyril tackles the elephant in the room: Don’t delay the state capture inquiry

 In his closing address to the NEC meeting, Zuma reportedly warned the committee members not to “push him too far” and that if they continued criticising him in public “they would see [what happens]”.

Ramaphosa told the Cosatu delegates that they were entitled to criticise the ANC leadership, because they are “equal partners” in the tripartite alliance.

“We are equal partners but the alliance is led by ANC. It means nobody’s voice must be muzzled. Nobody must be told to shut up. Cosatu must reclaim its right to be consulted,” he said, hinting that Zuma’s failure to consult Cosatu on his recent cabinet reshuffle meant the federation was being undermined.

“Consultation must move beyond structures of the ANC and move into the alliance. If you are not consulted, it means you are not an equal strategic partner,” Ramaphosa said.

On Monday SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande expressed the same sentiments at the Cosatu meeting.

“War chests are being used to contest the ANC conference in December … But the ANC is not owned by those leaders, it’s a people’s movement. No one is going to tell us we can’t talk about the ANC, it’s our own movement.”

Nzimande said SACP leaders faced intimidation over their public criticism of state capture, the Gupta family and their links to Zuma.

“We are being threatened because we are supposed to keep quiet. We are not going to keep quiet, this is our revolution, all of us,” Nzimande said.

Ramaphosa encouraged Cosatu members to continue its demand for “ethical and honest” leadership.

“To remain silent on these matters is going to be a betrayal of the struggle. Stand by your demands to be honest and ethical. But stand by your demands that we need to have honest, capable and ethical leaders who are going to lead our alliance,” he said.

In an address, which received several intervals of applause, Ramaphosa concluded by quoting the Guinea-Bissauan and Cape Verde revolutionary poet, Amilcar Cabral.

“Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mask no mistakes, mask no failures and claim no easy victories. But more importantly, do not tell lies.”

Ramaphosa said: “Quite a lot of these things have been happening in our own ranks. Some may say ‘don’t talk about them’. But we need to talk about them so that they don’t continue to happen.”

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