Shortly before Motlanthe left on a five-day holiday, his office issued a statement on Monday saying he was “concerned by media reports suggesting that he is canvassing for election as president of the ANC”.
“The deputy president’s office wishes to state categorically that Deputy President Motlanthe, as a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC who respects its internal democratic processes, is not involved in any campaigning or lobbying for the presidency of the ANC and he has not spoken to anyone about his future role in the ANC.”
Motlanthe’s spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said the deputy president was more concerned about doing his job well.
His future role in the ANC would be determined at the party conference, when his term as party deputy president expired.
Notably, the statement stopped short of saying Motlanthe would not challenge Zuma for the job.
The Sunday Independent, citing a close aide of Motlanthe, reported that the deputy president had “clandestinely indicated that he is available to take over” from Zuma “should any group in the ANC prove it has drummed up a groundswell of support” for such a challenge.
The report said the “top aide” to Motlanthe had described the relationship between Zuma and his deputy as being “at its lowest” ebb, that Zuma “feels threatened by continued political rumours about his removal” and that Motlanthe would involve himself in the succession discussion only once a decision had been taken about whether Zuma should be replaced.
Earlier this year, newspapers reported that a crime intelligence document had alleged that a number of senior ANC members were involved in a “plot” to oust Zuma.
The document, compiled by police intelligence boss Richard Mdluli – who has since been arrested on charges relating to a murder 12 years ago – named ANC national executive committee (NEC) members Tokyo Sexwale, Billy Masetlha, Jeff Radebe, Mathews Phosa, Cassel Mathale, Julius Malema, Paul Mashatile, Tony Yengeni and others as being part of the purported conspiracy.
The ANC dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and “very misleading”, but it is understood the intelligence document sent shock waves through the party.
Sexwale, who was named as the leader of the group, strongly denied the allegations and offered to invest some of his considerable personal wealth in investigating the origins and purpose of the Mdluli document.
Past ANC succession battles have drawn in organs of state, including elements of the security and intelligence establishment.
In April 2001, Zuma, who was then deputy president to Thabo Mbeki, issued an unsolicited statement saying that he had no plans to challenge Mbeki for the party leadership.
The “plot” allegations have come 10 years to the month that the then-minister of safety and security, Steve Tshwete, made the allegation – later discredited – that three senior ANC members, Sexwale, Phosa and Cyril Ramaphosa, were plotting to oust Mbeki.
Then, as now, the allegations emanated from the security establishment.
In January 2007, as the battle was hotting up to gain control of the party at its conference at the end of that year, then-deputy president Zuma issued a statement in which he denied reports that said he and Sexwale had met to discuss Sexwale’s possible candidacy for the party’s top job.
Zuma went on to be elected leader of the ANC. IOL News