ANC SCRAMBLES FOR UNITY
As the governing party prepares for a highly charged policy conference this week, senior leaders are working to produce a list that includes all factions at the top-tier
The ANC could end up with a bloated top structure as furious horse trading among the party’s provinces took place this week to avoid a bruising contest at the national conference in December. As things stand, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana DlaminiZuma are the frontrunners in a presidency race that could potentially be worse than the 2007 Polokwane race between President Jacob Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki.
There was a scramble this week to compare lists and reach consensus, with chairpersons and secretaries of provinces crisscrossing the country to lobby about a leadership collective that would appeal to all sides within the ANC.
An ANC insider, who attended the meeting, said: “The meeting happened on Tuesday ... There have been numerous meetings, for a while now. This thing involves chairs and secretaries. That is how deep this thing is.
“All things are coordinated. In these meetings of basic-minded people who want unity, we throw all names in a pot and see how best we can work on consolidating unity.”
Several provinces held provincial general council (PGC) meetings this weekend to prepare for the ANC’s national policy conference, which starts on Friday.
The need to foster unity is informed by the threat of a major electorate loss when South Africans go to the polls in 2019.
The differences over leadership are already affecting a province such as KwaZulu-Natal, where supporters and leaders are caught between loyalties to Zuma and to ANC treasurergeneral Zweli Mkhize.
Striking a discordant note, Zuma attended KwaZulu-Natal’s PGC, which took place at the University of Zululand, where he was reported to have warned “against the bargaining of candidates by provinces”.
While the push to add more officials to what has traditionally been a top six was initially punted by the pro-Zuma group, there is growing consensus from all sides to increase the number so that candidates from all slates can be accommodated.
Represented in a meeting of provinces this week were Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
The name of Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile was among those of the candidates put forward by Gauteng to be in the top leadership.
Other names thrown in the hat by other provincial and regional leaders who attended the meeting include ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Mkhize, former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Ideally, an uncontested list going to the national elective conference in December would include Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma, who have both been tipped for the top job.
On Friday night, Mashatile said proposals to change the leadership structure included a second deputy president and two additional deputy secretaries-general.
He said the idea was to strengthen the head office of the ANC so that it truly became a strategic centre of power.
Mashatile confirmed that he had been meeting some ANC leaders in his opening address to the Gauteng PGC, saying there was already a view in the provincial executive committee that he must go up to national level.
But he was quick to tell Mantashe, who was at the gathering, that he was not campaigning.
Mashatile said they had already started discussions on leadership and would share proposals with structures soon.
City Press has learnt that in Gauteng’s case, the intention was to push to the national executive committee (NEC) some of its current provincial leaders.
These include Nkenke Kekana, Mondli Gungubele, Mandla Nkomfe, Linda Maseko, Barbara Creecy, Peter Skosana and Dipuo Mvelase.
The idea is that Mashatile will hand over his deputy in the province David Makhura, who will, in turn, have Parks Tau and Lebogang Maile on his side.
Mantashe also made a call for unity this week, urging ANC members to speak in one voice.
The secretary-general wants the December conference to “elect a leadership that will send a signal that we are serious about stopping looting from our people”.
“It is important to engage with comrades to influence and be influenced. Let us not strive for winner takes all,” he said.
Mantashe said the ANC was under siege from forces, including its alliance partners, who believed that the only solution to the governing party’s woes was to remove Zuma as president.
He described as a myth the belief, also held by Gauteng’s ANC leadership, that Zuma’s departure would solve the crisis in the ANC. “We must build the movement,” he said. “When the movement is strong, it will rebuild itself and self-correct. We may not even need to chant: ‘Zuma must go.’ He may see that it is necessary to go himself.
“Now, because if we are expedient about it, we may plunge the movement into a crisis. When we plunge into a crisis, we are going to have satisfaction in the short term, but it may take longer to pull the pieces together,” added Mantashe.
ANC head of policy Jeff Radebe confirmed that various structures had made formal proposals regarding the number of officials in the NEC.
“There is an emerging consensus that we require in the NEC dedicated leaders, who must be stationed at headquarters on a full-time basis in order to service our members and respond to the current challenges,” he said.
“At the last count in Mangaung [in the Free State] in 2012, we had a membership of more than 1 million. We have more than 100-plus members of the NEC, but four members who are full time at head office.
“They are the secretary-general, his deputy, the treasurer-general and the national spokesperson. “Four NEC members are not enough to service this huge organisation. That is why it is understandable that more branches are calling for this change,” Radebe said. EWN reported that Zuma said the ANC had decided in 1997 that bargaining by provinces about which candidates would occupy which position would end. Mpumalanga chairperson DD Mabuza is using the ticket of the only consolidated province as an ace to negotiate with all those interested in leadership.
KwaZulu-Natal, which historically has been the biggest and most united delegation, will head to conference bitterly divided. The province is torn between current provincial executive committee chair Sihle Zikalala, and ousted premier Mchunu and former eThekweni mayor James Nxumalo. It is understood that the former group is backing Dlamini-Zuma and the latter group, along with alliance partners in the province, will throw their weight behind Ramaphosa.
KwaZulu-Natal’s PGC was also attended by Dlamini-Zuma and Mkhize.
The ANC provincial youth and women’s leagues reiterated their support for DlaminiZuma at the meeting.
In North West, provincial chair Supra Mahumapelo told delegates that he also wanted the top six officials increased to nine.
Meanwhile, supporters of Ramaphosa strengthened his hand when they won the fiercely contested Vhembe region in Limpopo on Friday.
FRONTRUNNER #2 Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
FRONTRUNNER #1 Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma