06/10/2017 06:12 SAST | Updated 06/10/2017 16:23 SAST

Ramaphosa: Unity Can't Come At The Expense Of Ignoring Corruption

"Unity is something that needs to be worked for. It is a process that we need to nurture."

Lisa Hnatowicz/ Beeld/ Foto24 via Getty Images

Unity in the ANC now seems to be the topic of the day for presidential hopefuls, who are vying for the country's top spot come the ruling party's national elective conference in December.

On Thursday, while addressing the national general council meeting of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa upped the ante with his sermon about unity within the party's ranks.

So far, his campaign has taken mostly an anti-corruption stance with a special focus on radical socio-economic transformation and economic growth, while spending a brief period on issues of factionalism and unity in the party.

But perhaps he has realised that it is becoming more and more necessary to talk the talk of unity as his competitors, ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu are positioning themselves as unity candidates ahead of the conference.

Ramaphosa spent a considerable amount of time at the Sadtu podium emphasising the importance of unity and condemning factionalism in the ANC's ranks.

"It is important that you as a union act in defence of other institutions we have in our country. Some of those institutions are now being looked at from a certain point of view, some of them are being attacked, some of them are being weakened and some of them will be weakened in time to come," he said.

"Only an ANC united on principle can effectively pursue a programme of fundamental transformation. Unity is something that needs to be worked for. It is a process that we need to nurture. We must have the courage to acknowledge where there is no unity and the capability to forge unity and forego factions that divide our movement as it is dividing our movement today."

He said unity requires give and take.

"Recently, we have seen how the levels of disunity amongst us have led to violence, have led to fighting. Comrades must find ways of finding one another... We should not use the desire for unity to ignore corrupt activity. If there is misconduct we must deal with it," Ramaphosa said.

"We cannot disrupt meetings, we cannot be throwing chairs. We need to act with seriousness to also stop the spate of killings that have affected some areas in our country. In order for us to be attractive to our people, we need to have certain protocols... that will be promoting unity."

Sisulu and Mkhize have been preaching unity in the ANC, basing much of their campaigns around the concept. This has garnered them support from various ANC branches across the country.

Ramaphosa, who holds the highest position in the party compared with his competitors, has perhaps realised that the message of unity -- which he hasn't ignored, but at the same time has not capitalised on –- must be part of his campaign if he wants to convince those branch members in the lowest ranks of his dexterity as a potential president.

It is those members whose votes count after all, and those members that factional battles affect on a regular basis.