The former president said his peers should refrain from drawing attention to themselves and only give advice when asked
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe has joined a list of ANC leaders who have cautioned former party presidents from speaking out against President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In an interview with Mail & Guardian on the sidelines of the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation Inclusive Growth Forum in the Drakensberg this weekend, Motlanthe called the criticism of Ramaphosa by former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma a “distraction”.
This weekend saw the three former presidents dominating the news as they held media briefings and stakeholder discussions in different parts of the country.
Mbeki was the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of the Strategic Dialogue Group (SDG) on Saturday and Zuma held a media briefing in Johannesburg on the same day.
During his speech, Mbeki said Ramaphosa was under pressure because of the Phala Phala scandal and suggested that the ANC could not escape the inevitable conversation about his fate. He suggested party leaders needed to have a meeting to discuss what to do should Ramaphosa face impeachment.
“Do we say to the president he must step aside, or do we say let it continue through the parliamentary process? What is the impact of that in the public mind?” Mbeki asked.
At his media briefing, Zuma accused Ramaphosa of being corrupt and kowtowing to the international community.
Asked by the M&G about his thoughts on the criticism from the former presidents, Motlanthe said both had a right to express their views, but that protocol should be applied.
“We must always defend that right [of free speech] that they have, and also that there are certain protocols that must apply to those who have left office to, in a sense, refrain from engaging very directly with the incumbents.
“It’s better when asked to give advice to be ready and available to perform whatever task is given to former office bearers, but as much as possible to refrain from drawing attention to former office bearers. I think it’s a distraction.”
A three-person panel chaired by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo will determine whether there is prima facie evidence to institute an impeachment inquiry against Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa had to return to parliament earlier this month after opposition parties cried foul, alleging that national assembly speaker Novisiwe Mapisa-Nqakula allowed the president to dictate how he should account to parliament about Phala Phala.
The crux of the disagreement between the opposition and the ruling party is whether saying he could not provide details on the case until investigations by law enforcement agencies had been completed constituted a valid response to the question, which was submitted by African Transformation Movement leader Vuyo Zungula.
The ANC has insisted it did, and that those he still has to respond to are some of the supplementary questions posed by MPs.
Motlanthe said Ramaphosa should have responded to the nation and the agencies investigating the scandal from the outset.
“Second guessing as to what happened, it gives rise to lots of speculation. And that’s not good for the president, the president’s image as well as the office of the presidency itself,” he said.
Motlanthe became state president after Mbeki’s recall. He was succeeded by Zuma.
The ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial leadership released a statement this weekend criticising the former presidents for making public their feelings about Ramaphosa.
KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said their actions were clearly an exercise in eroding the standing of the governing party.
“We call upon leaders of our movement to use the right channel to raise whatever frustration they have with the ANC instead of attacking the ANC, its government and its leadership in public.
“We do acknowledge that the organisation is facing challenges, but unfortunately the conduct of the three leaders, that we respect and admire, forces us to choose between them and the ANC. Unfortunately, as elected leaders, we are duty bound to defend the ANC and its leadership,” Mtolo said.