Ramaphosa and Zuma joined in handshake by Mama Winnie at ANC policy conference

The ANC policy conference kicked off with an unlikely embrace between president Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa on stage, who laughed as they were joined at the hands by liberation struggle hero and MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

A small groups of delegates rushed to the front while members of the ANC’s national executive committee arrived, singing songs in support of Zuma, who is scheduled to deliver the opening address.

Zuma and Ramaphosa both arrived without any fanfare. The conference takes place with strict rules, with delegates being barred from singing factional songs and openly showing their leadership preferences.

But secretary general Gwede Mantashe said singing about Zuma would be allowed.

The first two days of the conference have been dedicated to diagnosing the state of the ANC and charting a route out of the crisis. But a consultative conference called for by the ANC’s veterans will not be held. Instead, Mantashe said on Thursday, the party would conduct its own introspection with the branches.

Mantashe is due to present his diagnosis of the party’s health in the first commission session on Friday afternoon.

The start of the meeting was delayed by three hours as delegates from the different provinces still arrived in packed busses.

ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete appealed for unity before Zuma made his address, saying the delegates should remember what the ANC’s supporters and voters said about the movement. Mbete said members should behave themselves in a manner that would foster unity.

“We have heard our people out there. In everything we do, we must remember the sounds of the voices of our people and what they said. The outcomes of this policy conference must be such which shows that we are a listening organisation,” Mbete said at the podium.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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