ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo has lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman following a report in the Sunday Times that he was involved in plans to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"It is just not true what has been reported. I have made it very clear that I was not part of any meeting or aware of any plot to try and remove President Cyril Ramaphosa," Sabelo told News24.
"I have laid an official complaint with the ombudsman."
The Sunday Times newspaper reported this weekend that former president Jacob Zuma allegedly held a secret meeting in Durban this week with key ANC officials including the party's Secretary-General Ace Magashule.
According to the newspaper report, besides Magashule, those at the meeting also included former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, ANC Women's League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba - as well as Sabelo.
'Good relations with Ramaphosa'
The meeting is alleged to have taken place at the Maharani hotel in Durban on Thursday.
The newspaper published a photograph showing Magashule, Mahumapelo, Zuma and Matuba together - apparently at the hotel.
Sabelo said that he believed the article was aimed at "harming my good relations with Ramaphosa and sending the message to the youth that I am not to be trusted".
He said the allegations in the article were "rubbish".
"I am not part of any of those plans. I support the elected leadership of the ANC."
Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko told News24 that the publication stood by its report, adding: "We will wait for his complaint."
Sabelo said he had been seen at the hotel only because while driving past; he had coincidentally spotted Magashule at the location and stopped to say hello.
"I was just greeting him and I asked what brings him to the province."
Sabelo said that Magashule then joked: "Can you ask the SG of the ANC what he is doing in one of the provinces?"
"I spoke to him for five to 10 minutes; he was leaving the hotel and rushing to the airport."
Sabelo said this chance encounter occurred on Thursday afternoon.
According to the Sunday Times article, Matuba suggested to the newspaper that her presence at the hotel was also coincidental.
She apparently also said that she encountered Magashule by chance while at the hotel for Women's League work.
In a statement released on Sunday by Matuba, on behalf of the women's league, she called the report "malicious" and "false".
"The ANCWL under the leadership of president comrade Bathabile Dlamini and her collective unreservedly supports the ANC leadership collective under president Cyril Ramaphosa elected at the 54th national conference held in December 2017 at Nasrec.
"There is no truth in the story... that there are plans to oust President Ramaphosa."
When approached by the publication, Magashule denied that a meeting with Zuma took place.
Mahumapelo did not comment and neither did Zuma's spokesperson Vukile Mathabela.
ANC national working committee member and former KZN premier Senzo Mchunu apparently told the newspaper he was aware of meetings by supporters of Zuma to find a way for the former president to return to power.
The Sunday Times also reported that on Wednesday a different meeting - involving Magashule, Mahumapelo and former SAA Board chair Dudu Myeni had allegedly taken place at the Beverley Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks.
Approached about this meeting, Myeni apparently declined to comment.
According to the article, supporters of Zuma want to instate a legal challenge against the results of last year's ANC National Conference during which new President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to the top ANC position.
Attempts by News24 on Sunday morning to reach various other officials were unsuccessful.
KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.
- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter