The national working committee held a meeting on Monday where Mkhize became a bone of contention as members were polarised in how the ANC should deal with the matter, sources told the Mail & Guardian.
Two sources closely involved in the meeting said that Ramaphosa allies – justice minister Ronald Lamola, public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu and the president of the African National Congress Veterans’ League Snuki Zikalala – each called for Mkhize to take special leave while the matter was still under investigation.
This was shot down by members who argued that Mkhize was a senior leader in the ANC and the matter should be dealt with by the president and the top six.
“We neutralised it by asking that the president speak to Zweli. It’s not our prerogative to appoint and un-appoint cabinet ministers. That trigger happy arrangement is not our competence. We can’t make the NWC a slaughterhouse. It is within his ambit and competence of the president and that was made very clear,” one NWC member told the M&G.
Another party leader close to the event said that Ramaphosa assured the meeting that the matter would be finalised as a matter of urgency.
ANC national spokesperson, Pule Mabe, told the M&G the party would issue a statement on Tuesday capturing decisions of the NWC.
“It’s helpful to rely on decisions publicly conveyed by the organizations,” Mabe said.
Lamola, Mchunu and Zikalala refused to comment, referring the M&G to Mabe.
The M&G previously reported that Mkhize is understood to be preparing to resign from office over the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the irregular awarding of a R150-million Covid-19 communications tender to his long-term associates.
Mkhize has been under fire over the contract awarded to Digital Vibes, the communications company associated with Tahera Mather, his political associate who ran the media component of his failed 2017 campaign to become ANC president.
Daily Maverick’s investigative news unit, Scorpio, has exposed a number of payments to or on behalf of Mkhize’s son, Dedani, by Digital Vibes, as well as repairs to a Johannesburg house owned by the minister’s trust.
Mkhize has denied any wrongdoing, and has said that he has not personally benefited from the contract.
On Monday, the ANC’s integrity commission chair, George Mashamba, said that he had received a letter from Mkhize indicating that he would appear before it.
Mashamba told the M&G that no date had been set yet for the meeting adding that the commission had sent a letter welcoming his request for a meeting.
The SIU has meanwhile prioritised the investigation. A source close to the investigation told the M&G last week that it was a matter of two weeks before they would hand over a preliminary briefing to Ramaphosa.
“The big guns have been brought on board to ensure this investigation is completed very soon. There are still a number of interviews to be done but the connections are there. More people are volunteering critical information,” the source said.
“The boss will brief the president soon.”
Ramaphosa’s allies have also told the M&G that the president is considering replacing Mkhize with former Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa or Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The NWC is said to have also deliberated on the appointment of members for preparations for the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) to head to its conference.
This after the MKMVA was recently disbanded.
In his closing address after the NEC that sat in May, Ramaphosa said the committee was deeply concerned at the slow progress in convening a unified conference of its veterans.
“We have agreed to establish an inclusive committee to start preparations for an appropriate celebration of the 60th anniversary of Umkhonto weSizwe in December 2021. We support the deputy president [David Mabuza] and the deputy secretary general in the processes they lead to unite former MK combatants, and call on the MK Military Veterans Association and MK National Council to co-operate,” Ramaphosa said.