The African National Congress (ANC) has strongly objected to a story published by the Sunday Times that claims top ANC officials met in Durban to discuss plans to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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.
"The ANC will not dignify these blatant lies and fabrications with a detailed response. However, we would like to point out that we refute this shameless gossip," ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement on Sunday evening.
"We also reject attempts to link our Secretary General, Cde Ace Magashule, to this alleged plot to oust the President of the ANC, Cde Cyril Ramaphosa. It is clear that this malicious gossip is calculated to cast aspersions on the integrity and commitment of our Secretary General to the unity and renewal project of the African National Congress."
The newspaper published a photograph of Magashule, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo, Zuma and ANC Women's League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba at the Maharani hotel in Durban on Thursday.
Mabe called on ANC members and the public at large "not to be misled by this factually baseless story".
"We are disappointed that the Sunday Times, in a very irresponsible and dangerous manner, proceeded to publish this misleading story," he said.
"We urge the Sunday Times to immediately retract this story which is nothing but incoherent political gossip that has the potential to undermine the unity of the movement."
He added that while the ANC supports freedom of the press, such freedom must be exercised with care and responsibility.
News24 previously reported that Sabelo has lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman.
"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 said.
"I have laid an official complaint with the ombudsman."
Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko told News24 that the publication stood by its report, adding: "We will wait for his complaint."
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."