High noon at ANC race
This week’s lekgotla is set be overshadowed by bitter factional battles as support for rival presidential candidates reaches boiling point
Tension is likely to run high this week when the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meets for its midyear lekgotla. The annual summit, held to assess the party’s performance at various levels of government and deal with internal dynamics, is being overshadowed by the deep rifts resulting from an increasingly bitter succession race. This will be the first time the ANC’s top leadership meets since the June policy conference, where the two dominant camps sized each other up ahead of the official start of the countdown to the December elective conference.
The gathering will be extended to selected national, provincial and municipal public representatives who are not NEC members.
Going into this summit, the ANC’s leadership will be confronted with threats of disbandment of structures, the leaking of “secret files” on how their opponents’ campaigns were being funded and dodgy business deals.
BATTLE OF THE CAPES
A leadership faction aligned to President Jacob Zuma and his preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is pushing for the disbandment of the Northern Cape and Western Cape provincial executive councils (PEC). Both structures are aligned to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is going head to head with Dlamini-Zuma in the succession race.
The Zuma camp argues that the Western Cape PEC is dysfunctional and that the credibility of the conference that elected the Northern Cape structure is in question.
In turn, Ramaphosa’s supporters say the same logic should then apply to KwaZulu-Natal, where the legitimacy of the PEC, who back Dlamini-Zuma, is also being questioned by the group which lost out at the December 2015 provincial conference.
Last weekend, Zuma initiated and led a high-level ANC delegation to Kimberley in the Northern Cape, where branches aligned to Dlamini-Zuma were accorded a full day to make a case for the disbandment of the Ramaphosa-friendly provincial ANC executive.
City Press heard that the Northern Cape intervention was spearheaded by Zuma after “a group of people approached him directly to complain, with a view to creating a cloud over the elected leadership”.
People who were part of the meeting also told City Press that: “On the basis of what he had been told, Zuma then requested that the officials come and listen to those comrades.” Zuma allies are pushing hard for a rerun of the conference. Even though it will be sending the smallest delegation to the December conference, the Northern Cape will be the main battleground next month, showing that every vote counts.
Zuma is scheduled to lead the August 9 Women’s Day celebrations in Galeshewe in Kimberley, where he is likely to emphasise the importance of female leadership.
City Press understands that a counterplan is being hatched by the Ramaphosa group to secure his return for another event in the province shortly thereafter. Ramaphosa was the keynote speaker at the provincial conference in May. Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters are confident that they will succeed in getting the Western Cape PEC disbanded, especially after that PEC dissolved the pro-Dlamini-Zuma Dullah Omar region, which covers the Cape Town metro.
Just like its neighbour, the Western Cape was visited by a Zuma-led delegation last weekend, but this time the top six officials were accompanied by members of the party’s powerful national working committee (NWC).
“We have given our branches a full mandate to move for the dissolution of the Western Cape structure,” said an NEC member who is a senior lobbyist in the Dlamini-Zuma camp. “We are pushing for the disbandment of the executive and have mobilised our branches to present that one message.” The leader said the feedback was that the Dullah Omar branches had “made a strong case” to the NWC, which is dominated by Zuma loyalists. However, a pro-Ramaphosa NEC member warned that a willy-nilly dissolution of provincial structures could spark a crisis and force the postponement of the December national conference.
Calling the intervention “not honest”, especially since the Western Cape was due to hold its provincial conference in a few months’ time anyway, he said: “It will be disingenuous to deny that there were problems in the Western Cape, because the provincial leadership is also deeply divided. But the question is: How do you dissolve a structure four months before conference?
“It will look like you are trying to manipulate the numbers.” The insider added that while the Western Cape PEC was being targeted for dissolving the Dullah Omar region, nothing was being done about the North West PEC, which had disbanded three regions.
He said some members of the NWC “have been clear that they are going to dissolve the province and they do not hide it. But we will be waiting for them when it gets to the NEC.”
Another pro-Ramaphosa lobbyist said if the Cape provinces were touched, they would push for similar action in KwaZuluNatal. “So, it is a case of: ‘If you pull that [stunt], I will retaliate with something else’. They are ready for combat ... KwaZuluNatal is even worse because there are political assassinations.”
The source added that Ramaphosa’s allies, such as former ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa – who recently survived gunshots – were being targeted.
Magaqa’s branch was also dissolved by the Dlamini-Zuma group, City Press heard.
The ANC lekgotla will also be mindful of the court case challenging the legitimacy of the KwaZulu-Natal PEC, which is scheduled to be heard in mid-August.
The court could conceivably reinstate the pre-2015 status. This would place Ramaphosa ally and former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu in charge of the national conference, unless a new provincial conference was organised before then.
“Senzo already showed his might at policy conference. He commandeered at least half of the delegates,” said the Ramaphosa lobbyist.
Unsettling the Dlamini-Zuma camp is Ramaphosa’s planned visit to sought-after Mpumalanga. Both sides claim to enjoy the support of Premier David Mabuza, who is also provincial chair. He is aiming for the deputy presidency and is the only chairperson who will be leading a united delegation to the December conference.
It is expected that Ramaphosa will use that occasion to indicate that Mabuza will be accommodated somewhere at the top of his slate.
“It has been agreed with [Mabuza] that [Ramaphosa] will be given a platform to address ANC members in that province. It is at that gathering where he is expected to then come out to say Mpumalanga must deliver one of their own,” said the source.
However, Mabuza’s campaign has been muddied by alleged threats of “a criminal arrest if he does not toe the line”.
City Press heard that the threat had been made as a punishment for defying Zuma. But Zuma’s loyalists have dismissed it as a propaganda campaign intended to discredit him.
LET’S ALSO DISBAND LIMPOPO
In Limpopo, a clean-up by the Dlamini-Zuma group is roping in new heavyweights to bolster a campaign that has been losing ground to Ramaphosa, who has been endorsed by three regions. Former youth league leader Lehlogonolo Masoga and former premier Cassel Mathale have been mentioned among those who will drive the faltering campaign.
There are also moves to disband the Limpopo PEC, with a view “to reversing the regional conferences that favoured Ramaphosa”. At least four ANC NWC members were expected to champion this move.
“The NWC is being pushed,” said an insider.
MAGASHULE’S MBALULA BOGEY
For Premier Ace Magashule in the Free State, the upcoming provincial conference is an all or nothing affair as he faces a challenge from his number two in the ANC, Thabo Manyoni.
Magashule has to win if his ambitions for the ANC top six are to remain alive. He is being pushed by some Dlamini-Zuma backers to take over from Gwede Mantashe as secretary-general.
Magashule is facing pressure from a man who has publicly declared his disdain for him and his leadership abilities. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, who has some influence in the Free State, is said to be backing the Manyoni camp. A Manyoni victory could see Mbalula emerge as the province’s preferred candidate for the secretary-general post – leaving Magashule out in the cold.