AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma pulled out of her official duties in Cameroon at the eleventh hour to attend the ANC’s national ...
AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma pulled out of her official duties in Cameroon at the eleventh hour to attend the ANC’s national executive committee meeting last weekend, at which she defended President Jacob Zuma.
The Sunday Times has established from several ANC insiders that Dlamini-Zuma had already tendered her apology for not intending to attend the NEC meeting in Irene, Gauteng, citing an invitation from the Confederation of African Football to take part in programmes related to the Africa Women Cup of Nations.
She arrived in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé on Thursday last week and was scheduled to spend the weekend there attending several women’s soccer games.
Cameroon media cited “last-minute changes to her agenda” for her sudden departure.
But the Sunday Times can reveal that she left after panicking Zuma loyalists called for her support as the president came under fire at the NEC meeting.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom tabled a motion at midday on Saturday for Zuma to step down that was supported by other cabinet ministers such as Aaron Motsoaledi and Naledi Pandor, and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.
Dlamini-Zuma’s office apparently did not explain to the CAF why she had cut short her stay, and her arrival in Irene surprised some NEC members.
Dlamini-Zuma’s AU spokesman, Jacob Enoh Eben, confirmed she had cut short her visit to Cameroon but said it was not to attend the NEC meeting.
“She cut her visit short due to bereavement back home in South Africa. She was due to return to Addis over that weekend, but was held back again by another family bereavement. As far as we know, she had no other planned meetings before returning to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” he said.
When asked for details of the bereavement, Enoh Eben said: “Would one be telling lies about bereavement?”
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa did not want to comment on the matter. “There is a lot of gossip about the NEC meeting and that is part of the gossip,” he said.
Those who attended the NEC meeting said that upon her arrival, after holding a caucus with ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, Dlamini-Zuma joined an ANC grouping defending Zuma against moves to remove him from office.
This has also been seen as the premier league’s tactic to force Dlamini-Zuma to show where she stands in the ANC succession race as they have endorsed her as their preferred candidate to take over from her former husbandDlamini-Zuma had been put under pressure to take a stand and defend Zuma by the “premier league” – an informal ANC grouping comprising the women’s league, youth league and three provincial premiers.
NEC members said Dlamini-Zuma defended Zuma by arguing that the problems facing the ANC could not be blamed on one man.
She also argued that he had just a year left of his term as ANC president.
“She said that we can’t put all the blame on one man,” the NEC source said. “It won’t solve any problems. There was nothing wrong in her defending the president because she is an elected NEC member. It was not unexpected.”
This has also been seen as the premier league’s tactic to force Dlamini-Zuma to show where she stands in the ANC succession race as they have endorsed her as their preferred candidate to take over from her former husband.
Insiders said this was the first time Dlamini-Zuma had openly aligned herself with the premier league.
Her support for Zuma was echoed in the meeting by several ANC women leaders, including Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and NEC members Nocawe Mafu and Ruth Bhengu.
For his part, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is likely to face off with Dlamini-Zuma for the party’s top job, is said to have appealed for unity in his short address to the meeting.
Apart from the leagues, Dlamini-Zuma has the support of ANC branches in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.
Other Zuma supporters who pulled out of their engagements last week to rush to the NEC meeting include Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, who made a quick return from Stellenbosch where he was attending the wedding of Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, and KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial chairman Sihle Zikalala, who made a surprise entrance after initially tendering an apology for not attending the meeting.
The meeting has been described as tense, with national chairwoman Baleka Mbete often calling on NEC members to be respectful towards each other in their addresses.