African National Congress chief whip Jackson Mthembu has defended secretary general Gwede Mantashe's right to pronounce on his preferred candidate for the party's next president.
Mantashe nailed his colours to the mast this weekend while speaking at two events in Limpopo, which was also simultaneously tweeted.
"If President Zuma recists [sic] to handover [sic] to Deputy President Ramaphosa, there will be a crises [sic]. If that happens, there will be a crises [sic]," Mantashe said at a church event on Sunday."If we elect #Ramaphosa to be a President, let us have a woman Deputy President. That will be smooth. That is my personal advice #HeritageDay."
He said the ANC "will never elect a woman President", but rather elect an ANC president, whether they are male or female.
Mantashe's comments found criticism in some quarters of the party. ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala said Mantashe's position required a leader who did not hold a "one-sided view".
Mthembu, a known supporter of Ramaphosa's claim to the presidency, defended Mantashe on Tuesday.
"@GwedeMantashe1, the SG of the ANC, like all ANC members, has every right to pronounce on his preference for ANC President," he tweeted.
"Comrade Gwede's principled stance that @DPRamaphosa, current Deputy President, must accent [sic] to the position of ANC President is correct."
Those who disagreed with Mantashe's pronouncements should tell all ANC members why Ramaphosa should not become the next ANC president, he continued.
"I am with @GwedeMantashe1 and all those who support the time-tested ANC tradition of a deputy president becoming an ANC President. #SIYAVUMA 100%!!"
Mantashe responded to the criticism on Sunday, saying President Jacob Zuma had made his choice of candidate known to the public, and thus he too had the right to do so. In his speech on Sunday, Mantashe alluded to the dichotomous choice facing the ruling party over the next three months, hinting that the battle for the presidency was going to get ugly."Pray for us, so that we choose life and prosperity in December, not death," he said.
"Your prayers will help us, because this period is going to be characterised by betrayal. That is what we are going to see, leading to December.
"We must never ascend to power by destroying others. We ask that the church pray for us. We pray that you pray for the ANC," he finished.