13/01/2018 04:37 GMT | Updated 13/01/2018 06:02 GMT

Ramaphosa Looks Ahead To 2019 During Gala Dinner Speech

Hundreds of the ANC’s top brass, business people and international dignitaries attended the dinner.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Cyril Ramaphosa during the ANC's 54th National Conference.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is already setting his course to state leader come national elections in 2019 (should the ANC win), with his speech at the party's 106th birthday gala dinner promising to shift focus back to the communities.

Ramaphosa dedicated his almost hour-long speech to unity in the ANC, returning the party to its core values and revitalising the ANC's support among the citizens of South Africa. He was speaking at the party's gala dinner in the Eastern Cape on Friday evening.

His speech came a day before he is to address thousands of ANC members at the party's 106th-anniversary rally where he will deliver the "January 8" statement on Saturday.

Hundreds of the ANC's top brass, businesspeople and international dignitaries attended the dinner.

Among them was controversial KwaZulu-Natal businessman and friend of President Jacob Zuma, Roy Moodley, who sat at the main table in front of the stage alongside Cosatu leader Sdumo Dlamini and his partner.

Next to Dlamini sat ANC deputy president David Mabuza, who, upon his arrival to his seat, was greeted by Energy Minister David Mahlobo who hurried over for a handshake. ANC KZN leader Sihle Zikalala also appeared soon after to greet Mabuza.

President Jacob Zuma arrived an hour after the event had begun, just in time for Ramaphosa's speech. He was accompanied by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ramaphosa ally and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu was also spotted in the crowd, embracing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her arrival.

Breaking away from his prepared speech, Ramaphosa described how the party's new top six had travelled across the country on a "revolutionary pilgrimage" to visit the gravesites of the ANC's former leaders and interact with communities, traditional leaders and faith-based organisations.

"It is important to always remember the ANC is not just a political party; it is a movement of the people of South Africa which has been driven for many decades by the ideals of freedom, justice and equality," he said.

He said this allowed them to "retrace the footsteps" of the ANC's past leaders and reconnect with communities.

"In order to be the movement we are, we need to be doing this throughout the year. We are therefore going to be spending a lot of time amongst our people," he said.

Ramaphosa also slammed speculation that the ANC's tops six led by him is divided.

"In this leadership, we see unity in action, we see a united leadership... we see diverse talents, different viewpoints, different experiences... If we violate this mandate by being divided, we will be violating a conference decision and a conference wish... Unity for us is not an option; we have no choice but to be united," he said.

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