Mabuza could swing both ways
That seems to be the directive that has been given to chief lobbyists in the ANC presidential race as they chase after Mpumalanga premier and provincial chairperson David Mabuza. In recent weeks, campaigners for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma have upped their bid to get Mabuza on their side. After KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga will send the second-biggest delegation to the party’s national conference in December.
Mabuza’s decision will depend on which team places him in a meaningful position when the nomination process opens in September.
Earlier this week, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee travelled to Mbombela to meet its Mpumalanga counterparts in what was seen as an attempt to seal support for the Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) slate. A Ramaphosa campaign (CR17) insider revealed that they too were working hard to win the influential leader over to their side. He claimed that, without Mabuza’s support, Ramaphosa could already count on the support of 50% of branches in the province. Getting Mabuza onside would guarantee that Ramaphosa would officially be the preferred candidate of almost the entire Mpumalanga delegation.
“That’s one area where we have a 50-50 split if the conference were to be held today. But we are pursuing Comrade DD [Mabuza] because he has clearly indicated that he is no longer interested in the NDZ campaign. He was part of the premier league [alongside the Free State’s Ace Magashule and North West’s Supra Mahumapelo]; he has since left them because he never agreed with them on Nkosazana,” said the insider.
The insider said there were “many comrades approaching Mabuza, including his lieutenants”.
“We are pursuing him because we believe if we can have him in our fold, we would have 100% of Mpumalanga,” he said.
The race comes as bullish Ramaphosa supporters claim that they would be victorious if the conference were to be held soon. With the support of the Western Cape and the Northern Cape in the bag, the Ramaphosa camp is claiming the Eastern Cape as its “strong province”. They believe they have the majority of the province’s branches on their side, regardless of the outcome of the provincial conferences in September.
“Even though there is contestation between our key leaders, including Phumullo [Masualle] and Oscar Mabuyane, both the camps fighting in the provincial conference are CR17. That’s why we are not rooting for anybody there because we don’t want to upset anyone,” said a backer.
The camp has also been buoyed by the fact the Free State, which is believed to be a Dlamini-Zuma stronghold, is sharply divided ahead of its upcoming conference at the end of August.
Magashule is facing a challenge from deputy provincial chairperson Thabo Manyoni and former provincial treasurer Mxolisi Dukwana. Both challengers are behind Ramaphosa in the national contest, so they’re trying to broker a truce between them.
“We can’t afford to divide our own vote between the two,” said a senior insider. “We must find a way of minimising this contestation in the Free State.”
Ramaphosa’s campaigners are hoping that the grouping that is challenging the legitimacy of the KwaZulu-Natal leadership structure would succeed in its court case, due to be heard in a few weeks.
“There is every possibility that the comrades who are contesting that provincial election are going to win. In the majority of cases, many of them were humiliated, removed from government unceremoniously and, in their view, also unconstitutionally. Therefore, they would like to correct all those wrongs in KwaZulu-Natal,” said the Ramaphosa lobbyist.
However, the campaign is yet to finalise its slate and faces a challenge. Some of its structures have proposed that a woman, most likely Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, deputise Ramaphosa. Former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu’s name has been linked to the secretary-general position and current secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to that of national chairperson. Gauteng’s Paul Mashatile is being touted as the preferred candidate for treasurer-general.
In the meantime, the Ramaphosa machinery is closely monitoring the branch audit process to ensure that there are no “surprises”. There is concern about auditing and how this may scupper the conference if not properly addressed. The source revealed where they had stumbled across “issues” through their structures and raised these with the auditing teams.
“As and when the audit is being undertaken, our own comrades are raising whatever issues they are not comfortable with. As we speak now we are comfortable that those that are responsible for this process, where red flags have been raised, they’ve attended to these matters.”