Deputy President Cyil Ramaphosa intimated on Thursday that he will not enter into an agreement with President Jacob Zuma that is contrary to the Constitution. He also told the ANC's parliamentary caucus that party unity is important, but "not at all costs".
"As you know, there are rumours of all sorts of deals being made. I am being accused of deals that are [not in line] with the Constitution. It is not true. I will never do something that is not constitutional"– Cyril Ramaphosa to ANC MPs
The ANC leader spoke for an hour and twenty minutes, updating the caucus on the ongoing negotiations with Zuma about his exit from executive office, as well as elaborating on the governing party's plans for the year and a variety of pressing issues facing party and state.
Rampahosa did not directly refer to speculation that Zuma wants immunity from prosecution, but sources with direct and first-hand knowledge of proceedings in the old assembly chamber in Parliament told HuffPost that it was very clear what he was referring to. "As you know, there are rumours of all sorts of deals being made. I am being accused of deals that are [not in line] with the Constitution. It is not true. I will never do something that is not constitutional," he said.
Ramaphosa did not provide details of the negotiations, and told caucus they remain "sensitive".
HuffPost earlier reported that Zuma is wary of being prosecuted on 783 counts and 18 charges of corruption, money laundering, fraud and racketeering. According to his strategists, the issue has come up often during the protracted dialogue about his future.
Ramaphosa has, however, made it clear that he will not interfere in the independence of prosecuting authorities, and that the law must take its course.
"[Unity is important], but it cannot override the difficult decisions the party and the country will have to take."– Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa did not provide details of the negotiations, and told caucus they remain "sensitive". He reiterated that he would drive the process through the structures of the ANC, and that any decision relating to Zuma would be tabled at the party's working and national executive committees. Caucus will also be informed in due course. Ramaphosa told MPs he is mindful that injudicious leaks could damage the process.
With reference to Zuma and the national anxiety caused by the continued uncertainty about his future, Ramaphosa said that whatever decision is finally taken, it needs to be to the benefit of South Africa and the ANC. Yes, he agreed, unity is important – "but it cannot override the difficult decisions the party and the country will have to take".
Sources told HuffPost that Ramaphosa's speech, delivered with the aid of his trusty iPad, was received well, and that it was clear that he has strong support among MPs.