Several reasons have been adduced for this fresh and complex decision. However some political analyst and critics are touting the recent sustained political tension within the ANC ruling party. The pro-Ramaphosa lobby, including regional and provincial ANC leaders, took the decision at an inaugural meeting of the group on Monday.They envisage it would be the most honourable decision by their principal.

However, some of Ramaphosa’s backers believe that the president’s detractors should remain in the cabinet to avoid a situation in which Zuma allies are allowed free rein.

The lobby group also wants the ANC constitution to be amended to create positions for a first and second deputy president, one to be deployed in the government and the other to serve full time at Luthuli House.

Brown Mogotsi, the organiser of the lobby group, said Zuma should follow the example of former ANC presidents Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela and endorse his deputy to succeed him.

“If he does not do that, we are calling for Ramaphosa to resign as deputy president of the country,” Mogotsi said.

“If you’re serving in the cabinet of a president who cannot pronounce his support for you, why should you be there?

“Why should you be deputising him? He has no confidence in you. [Ramaphosa] must do organisational work … until the elective conference where he is elected president of the ANC.”

In January, Zuma signalled that he did not support Ramaphosa, saying there was no ANC policy or tradition that the deputy president should automatically be elevated. Instead, Zuma praised his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and declared that the party was ready for a woman leader.

Ramaphosa has taken a stance critical of Zuma on some issues, such as the cabinet reshuffle in which Pravin Gordhan was fired as finance minister.

The pro-Ramaphosa group is due to meet again before the ANC’s policy conference starting on June 30, with five representatives from each of the party’s 54 regions in attendance.

Mogotsi, who describes himself as an ordinary ANC member from Mahikeng in North West, said the group was not targeting only popular ANC and community leaders.

He said their strategy was to talk to ordinary ANC members who would be delegates at the party’s conference.

“So far we have visited all the regions across the country, including each municipal area, zones or subregions. Branches of the ANC are saying enough is enough,” Mogotsi.

So far we have visited all the regions across the country, including each municipal area, zones or subregions. Branches of the ANC are saying enough is enough

In KwaZulu-Natal, the group claims to be making inroads in the president’s stronghold province.

Former premier Senzo Mchunu, who is a key figure in Ramaphosa’s campaign in the province, said although they were not unaware of the challenges ahead, they were optimistic about their chances.

“All is proceeding well. We will see. It won’t be easy,” he said after taking Ramaphosa to a prayer gathering of the Shembe church in Empangeni, northern KwaZulu-Natal, on Tuesday.

Mchunu leads the pack of leaders – all of them isolated by Zuma supporters in KwaZulu-Natal – who are working tirelessly to deliver the province to Ramaphosa.

The list includes Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bheki Cele, former ANC provincial treasurer Mike Mabuyakhulu, former eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo and SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu.

Another Ramaphosa campaigner, who asked not to be named, said the biggest challenge in the province would be making sure that internal processes were not manipulated against Ramaphosa.

“We are aware that many branches might be disqualified or their file might be misplaced to avoid them going to [meetings], especially those who support Cyril.

“We must be honest to the ANC and do what is right rather than what they want.”

He said Ramaphosa “is supported in KwaZulu-Natal by a huge number of branches from the suburbs, townships and in very deep rural areas”.

He said support from Cosatu and the SACP would play a major role in turning the province in Ramaphosa’s favour.