The African National Congress (ANC) “squandered a golden opportunity” in not getting rid of President Jacob Zuma‚ the Congress of the People (Cope) said on Wednesday.

Cope said that Zuma survived because he has dirt on NEC members.

“The opportunity was there for the ANC to show the country and the world that they are serious about restoring the badly damaged image and the dignity of the party and the country‚” said Cope’s Dennis Bloem.

His comments come after ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday that the national executive committee (NEC) resolved that Zuma should not step down but that the party rather focus on uniting the movement.

The NEC had acknowledged that there was a negative perception towards the president and therefore allowed the debate to proceed‚ Mantashe said.

Bloem said: “The mere fact that a vote of no confidence against Zuma came from senior members of the ANC‚ his own party‚ is an indication that there is no more confidence and trust in him. Internal dissent is also coming out very strong.”

Mantashe had‚ however‚ said there was no vote on the motion tabled at the meeting: “The ANC NEC has never debated on an issue‚ we persuade one another.”

Bloem cited recent comments by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini as proof that Zuma had dirt on members of the ANC NEC‚ who “must be careful in pointing fingers at Zuma because many of them are having ‘smaller nyana’ skeletons in their cupboard”.

“The outcome of the weekend’s NEC meeting show very clear that Zuma knows a lot about the NEC members‚” he said..

“We can see that Zuma holds a file of undisclosed scandals of all these members that are busy defending him. He recently said that he knows all those that steal money belonging to the poor.”

Bloem had praise for the anti-Zuma camp “for standing up and confronting Zuma head-on”.

“We know that by doing this‚ those members have put their ministerial positions at stake. We salute them for putting the country first and their positions last.”