President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his regret over the relationship between the ANC stalwarts and his predecessor Jacob Zuma, Veterans League leader Snuki Zikalala said on Monday.
The relationship was acrimonious and tense, with the 101 veterans calling for Zuma to step down.
Ramaphosa met with veterans in Sandton to discuss their concerns leading up to the 2017 December elective conference.
Zikalala said Ramaphosa had told them during the meeting that he was "saddened by the manner in which stalwarts were treated and he thinks that is something that has to be addressed by the NEC".
The veterans penned a document titled "For the Sake of our Future", berating the Zuma leadership for moving away from the founding values of the liberation movement.
Their call for a consultative conference to be held before the contested December elective conference was shot down on numerous occasions. The ANC, instead, dedicated two days of its July policy conference to deal with organisational renewal, however, the stalwarts boycotted the event.
Opening the conference, Zuma attacked the veterans, calling them "so called leaders" and questioning their weight in the party.
On Monday, Zikalala said Ramaphosa had acknowledged Zuma's transgressions against the stalwarts, including not recognising them. He said they were happy with his reply.
"He said that it was uncalled for because we were raising critical issues that were affecting the life blood of the ANC, because the ANC was definitely going down the drain," Zikalala added.
Ramaphosa told journalists that the party leadership and the elders had a positive meeting over their role in the ANC.
"We had a wonderful engagement with the stalwarts of the ANC. This was a meeting where we were reconnecting, re-engaging with stalwarts and we were briefing them about the moment that we are in now as the new leadership."
Ramaphosa, who was accompanied by his deputy David Mabuza, said they had invited stalwarts to be active participants in the Veterans League and party campaigns heading to the 2019 elections.
Zikalala said the league would rope in past leaders, including former president Kgalema Motlanthe.
"He is prepared to come on board and to have the Veterans League establish themselves as a core thinker of the ANC."
Zikalala said the league had not yet approached Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki to join them, but their roles were recognised in shaping the party's values going forward.