Phosa stands up for the president
ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa yesterday defended President Jacob Zuma when a senior opposition leader labelled him a "male chauvinist" whose leadership and efforts at nation building did not match that of his predecessors.
The comment did not sit well with Phosa, who is believed to be part of a group that wants to see Zuma replaced at Mangaung in December.
Phosa warned Democratic Alliance MP Wilmot James that he should not push him to say things about his leader Helen Zille.
"Zuma is the president of the country and of the ANC and I deny and defend him ... he is not a male chauvinist. I refuse to attack your leader in this debate. I can say so many things about her but I refuse," Phosa said in response to James.
The exchange happened during a debate at ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada's annual conference in Johannesburg ,where the two were invited to speak on non-racialism and nation building - together with Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder.
James praised former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki for being nationalists. But Phosa disputed this, saying Mandela should not be reduced to a nationalist.
James' argued that he pulled through a series of laws like affirmative action to deal with inequality, while Black Economic Empowerment was made the law under Mbeki's leadership.
Phosa's irritation at James' comment was unprecedented as he has been heavily criticised for failing to defend Zuma when he he was called a "dictator" by expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema
He recently added fuel to the fire when he warned of dictatorship slowly creeping into the ruling party, a comment seen as an indirect jab at Zuma.
While some ANC structures have nominated Phosa to retain his current position or be deputy president, he has called on ANC members not to retain the current leadership collective under Zuma, if it is found that it has failed to fulfil its electoral mandate.
Phosa also emphasised the importance of creating a platform of common purpose as leaders, instead of pointing fingers at one another. "We must focus on the positives and less on the differences ," he said.