Power be­hind the scenes

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@ city­press. co. za

At the end of the ANC’s con­fer­ence in Man­gaung, the party’s Free State and North West chair­per­sons gath­ered their del­e­ga­tions in a cor­ner of the hall for a post-con­fer­ence cau­cus. The two prov­inces had ex­pe­ri­enced a tu­mul­tuous run-up to the con­fer­ence, with the fac­tions back­ing Ja­cob Zuma and those sup­port­ing his chal­lenger, Kgalema Mot­lanthe, at each oth­ers’ throats. The pro-Zuma fac­tions, headed by Ace Ma­gashule in the Free State and Supra Mahumapelo in North West, had tri­umphed, and the del­e­ga­tions that went to Man­gaung were over­whelm­ingly in favour of giv­ing the in­cum­bent a sec­ond term as leader of the party. In that cor­ner of the hall, the two chair­per­sons ex­horted their del­e­ga­tions to con­tinue from where they left off when they got home. But while they preached unity, the mes­sage was the very op­po­site: go home and stamp on those losers.

It could be said that the seeds of the al­liance of con­ve­nience that is now known as the Premier League were planted on that day. The two chair­per­sons were al­ready close al­lies go­ing into Man­gaung – Ma­gashule claims this is be­cause they both come from maize-pro­duc­ing prov­inces – but the con­fer­ence was decisive in con­sol­i­dat­ing their grip on their re­spec­tive con­stituen­cies. In the months that fol­lowed, the re­cal­ci­trant on the los­ing side were pushed aside and those who knew what was good for them toed the line. These two lead­ers went on to spread their in­flu­ence be­yond their prov­inces.

With an eye on high seats at the 2017 con­fer­ence, the lead­ers made al­liances with those with sim­i­lar am­bi­tions. In Mpumalanga they found David Mabuza, who was en­ter­ing his last term as premier and there­fore seek­ing na­tional of­fice. In KwaZulu-Natal, there was the en­er­getic sec­re­tary Sihle Zikalala, who con­trolled half of his province and had de­signs on the chair­man­ship and premier­ship. They worked to make in­roads else­where. This Premier League de­vel­oped into a for­mi­da­ble bloc in the ANC – what in the cor­po­rate world you would call the share­holder of ref­er­ence. Key de­ci­sions in the ANC – par­tic­u­larly about lead­er­ship po­si­tions – would be ref­er­enced through this group. They were suc­cess­ful in their con­sol­i­da­tion of power, win­ning strate­gic in­flu­ence in the ANC, its leagues and among its al­liance part­ners. They were ac­cused of us­ing bully tac­tics, de­ter­min­ing del­e­ga­tions to con­gresses and even in­struct­ing del­e­gates on how to vote. The Premier League be­came a feared unof­fi­cial com­po­nent of the ANC. You would hear of peo­ple be­ing de­scribed as a “Premier League can­di­date” or of an elec­tion list be­ing said to be a “Premier League ticket”.

The Premier League’s great­est vic­tory was the in­stal­la­tion of So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini as ANC Women’s League pres­i­dent last month. All that the hap­less in­cum­bent, Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga, could do was com­plain loudly and con­demn men who were try­ing to ma­nip­u­late the women’s move­ment.

The run-up to the ANC Youth League congress un­der way this week­end has also been char­ac­terised by ac­cu­sa­tions that the Premier League is ma­nip­u­lat­ing the process. Go­ing into the congress, Colin Maine, a lack­lus­tre North West MEC whose great­est gift from the Cre­ator are his ex­tended cheeks, ap­peared to have the run­away lead thanks to be­ing the Premier League’s pre­ferred can­di­date. While the other four can­di­dates and their back­ers were run­ning around scram­bling for sup­port, the Premier League fo­cused on get­ting a strong bloc be­hind their man and those on his ticket.

But as in any power game, there had to come a point where there was go­ing to be push­back. Af­ter help­lessly watch­ing the group­ing’s power grow, other ANC in­ter­est groups are fight­ing back – al­beit in a dis­jointed way. Be­hind the scenes, new al­liances are be­ing cre­ated among those who feel bul­lied by this group­ing. Lead­ers in other prov­inces and struc­tures are reach­ing out to the dis­grun­tled in Premier League prov­inces in a bid to weaken the group­ing.

The SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) gave the strong­est sign of this fight­back when its Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, with­out nam­ing names, con­demned what it called “ma­noeu­vres at fac­tional, cor­rupt and cor­po­rate cap­ture of our move­ment”.

This is now set to be­come an agenda item for the al­liance. These power plays are bound to be­come more in­tense and bruis­ing as the Premier League fights the back­lash and pro­tects the ground it has con­quered in re­cent years.

The SACP state­ment was ironic, as the party has over the ages worked to cap­ture the ANC, us­ing con­gresses to “flood” the lead­er­ship ranks with com­mu­nists and union­ists. It is a very nor­mal thing. which is, yes, driven by self-in­ter­est and am­bi­tion. The only thing that is scary about this one are the sto­ries you hear about some of the gen­tle­men in­volved.

It is the knowl­edge of those sto­ries that should keep us awake at night as we pon­der what their con­trol of the gov­ern­ing party will mean for our re­pub­lic.

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