Mabuza turns on the CHARM
Mpumalanga premier is campaigning to clinch the deputy presidency come December by wooing defectors to return to the fold
Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza has embarked on a charm offensive by mending fences with all purged and disgruntled comrades in a move to boost his national office ambitions. Mabuza has been recalling all comrades to the ANC fold in what is seen as a strategy to contest for the ANC deputy presidency position in December with Mpumalanga united and behind him.
An insider in Mabuza’s campaign said this strategy would portray Mpumalanga in a good light and its premier in an even better one – as a leader able to unite the strife-torn ANC and, in so doing, setting a good example for other provinces to follow. The province intends to go to the December elective conference as a bloc and will then skim off delegates from divided provinces.
The insider said: “Unlike other provinces with three or even five factions, Mpumalanga is ensuring that it does not have factions within its structures.”
Mabuza has, in the past, dealt with opposition from comrades by forcing some to defect to other parties, form splinter parties or even team up with rival factions in provinces other than Mpumalanga to frustrate his ambitions.
However, he has since changed his strategy and managed to dissolve a disgruntled group, the Save Mpumalanga ANC, which was calling for him to relinquish both his titles: premier and provincial chair.
The group had questioned his leadership style and accused him of having rigged conferences and entrenched patronage in ANC branches and government.
At a fundraising dinner on January 29, Mabuza introduced Ronald Lamola, the former deputy president of the ANC Youth League, as one of the members with whom he had reconciled. Lamola was Mabuza’s spokesperson, but they fell out when he wanted to contest Collen Maine for the youth league presidency.
“As Mpumalanga, we feel that we are stable under these difficult circumstances confronting our organisation,” said Mabuza.
“We forge unity in our ranks and do it practically. We had a father-to-son talk with Ronald and agreed he must come back home.”
Lamola told City Press he was happy to participate in his home branch again.
“What convinced me to agree to this process is that the chairperson [Mabuza] has been speaking consistently about unity and dealing with issues of gatekeeping. It was an indication that there was some genuine attempt,” he said.
“I felt that we needed to give it a chance and put the matter to the test.”
Mabuza has also reconciled with the SA Communist Party (SACP) – in particular, with provincial secretary Bonakele Majuba. He held hands with Majuba and other leaders from the tripartite alliance when he spoke to members at Mbombela Stadium on January 29.
Tensions had been so palpable that the ANC sabotaged SACP activities. For example, at a 2015 lecture honouring the late communist stalwart Joe Slovo, violence was sparked between supporters of both parties.
Majuba said: “We welcome [Mabuza’s] initiative, but it should not be just a rhetorical statement. It should also not be about doing it for one’s benefit.”
Attempts were also ongoing to facilitate a reconciliation between Mabuza and former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa. Mabuza filed a R10 million lawsuit against Phosa in the Pretoria High Court for allegedly distributing a document claiming he was an apartheid spy. The case is still pending.
Last weekend, Mabuza spoke about unity at the funeral of Letta Shongwe, chairperson of the Mpumalanga ANC Women’s League. He invited former provincial ANC deputy chair David Dube to reconcile with him.
“I learnt about unity from Comrade Letta. When we fought, Comrade Dube [used to] hide behind her. Now that she is no longer here, we have no choice but to unite,” Mabuza said.
As things stand, Mabuza believes that all Mpumalanga ANC regions, the provincial executive committee and the youth league, especially its president, Maine, are backing him for the deputy presidency post.
We had a father-to-son talk with Ronald and agreed he must come back home
MENDING FENCES David Mabuza