In Gwede Mantashe's last five years as Secretary General of the ANC, the party came to the realization that it was in "big trouble," the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
During his testimony before the commission – chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – Mantashe revealed that the party was consistently engaging with allegations of state capture. He told the commission that "things began to fall apart when this issue of state capture began to manifest."
Mantashe, who is the national president of the ANC, said to the commission that there were two specific reshuffles that caused major upheaval within the party: first former president Jacob Zuma's dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in 2015 and then the axing of his successor Pravin Gordhan, in 2017.
READ MORE: Mantashe – ANC will protect the Zondo commission at all costs
Mantashe was talking about the party's 2016 internal inquiry into allegations against the controversial Gupta family, which were raised by various party members.
The probe was led by Mantashe.
The commission has been preoccupied with the extent of the ruling party's intervention in fending off state capture.
At the beginning of his testimony Mantashe read out a statement from the party reiterating its support of the commission – saying "all South Africans should protect the commission at all costs". Mantashe insisted during his testimony that the ANC had voluntarily appointed the commission.
Mantashe said the ANC was reporting regularly to the National Executive Committee (NEC) regarding allegations of state capture. The NEC has resolved that people making allegations should do so to an independent body.
Zondo asked Mantashe if there was a period in which the ANC had adopted a strong view that a significant section of the party might be influenced by the Gupta family. Mantashe said the issue of state capture has been a major issue for the ANC for a long time.
Mantashe referenced and a 2017 diagnostic report in which he warned ANC leaders not to use the "regime change agenda" narrative to defend the alleged state capture by the Gupta family.
In the report, Mantashe said some ANC and government leaders remained on the defensive about family influence despite investigations by former public protector Thuli Madonsela and the South African Council of Churches. "Serious allegations were made against a number of leaders of the ANC," the report said.
"Instead of dealing with the reality of the movement … a narrative was developed that linked any discomfort with the influence of the Gupta family to the regime change regime." He said in the report that, while " it should not be used as the standard response when allegations of corruption rear their head.
Mantashe told the commission that one of the "issues that divided us greatly" was the demand that Zuma resign.
At the end of Mantashe's testimony, Zondo said the work of the commission could not be complete without the governing party giving evidence of what it did to deal with the issue of state capture. The people of South Africa want to know what the ANC was trying to do, Zondo added.
The ANC's opening statement to the commission indicated that President Cyril Ramaphosa will explain what action ANC took and why it omitted to intervene in circumstances where it should or could have done so.