African National Congress treasurer general Zweli Mkhize says the fact that its MPs chose to vote with the opposition, means the party shouldn't be celebrating the secret ballot result, and now needs to take stock of itself.
In an opinion piece written on Thursday for Daily Maverick, Mkhize acknowledged the victory in the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma was "significantly narrower than expected".
At least 30 ANC MPs voted to support the motion.
"This is certainly not a time for jubilation, but rather warrants reflection and great self-introspection on the current challenges within the party," he said.
"As ANC leaders we have to go back to the drawing board and reassess our current situation and what it is that we are doing to unite, rebuild, reposition."
Mkhize said, with the inevitable internal party disciplinary processes on the horizon, the ANC's leadership would need to find out what lies at the heart of the divide in Parliament.
"Voting with opposition is one of the most unacceptable misconduct for any ANC public representative to commit," he said.
"Among the questions we must respond to are the following: Have we mismanaged issues to the extent that we cannot accept internal mechanism to address challenges we face?"
Mkhize stressed that the ANC now needed to renew itself, or risk losing more support.
"Public trust in the ANC will continue to dissipate unless we embark on a process of fundamental renewal."
The ANC had reigned supreme ever since the demise of apartheid more than two decades ago.
"The very notion of any sort of successful challenge against the ANC government, let alone a motion of no confidence in its leadership, would have been unfathomable."
'Mbete must be lauded'
That many ANC MPs voting with the opposition showed that dissent, considered "impossible" 10 years ago, was a reality today.
Mkhize, however, remained confident that National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete's decision to use the secret ballot, and the subsequent result, had sent a message that the party still embraced democratic ideals.
"This must be seen as a clear message to the people of South Africa that the ANC remains committed to the democratic principles of this country - the party constitution and the country's Constitution.
"She [Mbete] must be lauded for her role and how she masterfully administered the process."
Mkhize maintained that those ANC MPs who voted against Zuma's removal were doing what they believed was right for the ANC and those citizens they represent.
"Despite the criticism levelled against our voting politic in Parliament, in their eyes, voting in favour of the no confidence was not about what is right for the opposition, but what is right for the ANC, the constituency they serve for all the people of South Africa."
He had a warning for the party going forward.
"It is our priority to definitively regain the loyalty and trust of the people. To claim ignorance of mistakes and errors of judgement in this regard would be to absolve myself from the social and moral responsibility I and other leaders have to the people for which we have been called to serve."