‘I AM READY TO LEAD’

Gaut­eng’s ANC chair adds his name to the grow­ing list of hope­fuls vy­ing to be in the top six – or at the helm

CityPress - - News - HLENGIWE NHLABATHI hlengiwe.nhlabathi@city­press.co.za

Gaut­eng ANC chair­per­son Paul Mashatile is gear­ing up to take on the old guards in the party to be­come its next pres­i­dent. Mashatile told City Press that he was avail­able to be nom­i­nated for any po­si­tion in the top six, even join­ing the long queue of hope­fuls vy­ing for the top ANC job, to be left va­cant by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in De­cem­ber.

He is the eighth can­di­date af­ter the two fron­trun­ners, Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa and for­mer African Union Com­mis­sion chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Re­cently, the Gaut­eng ANC’s pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (PEC) re­solved that Mashatile should be pro­moted to Luthuli House. City Press pre­vi­ously re­ported that the province was toy­ing with the idea of push­ing for sev­eral PEC mem­bers to as­cend to the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC).

“Party struc­tures haven’t said which po­si­tion in the NEC; we will still dis­cuss it,” Mashatile told City Press on Thurs­day.

“But if they say the po­si­tion of pres­i­dent, I won’t say no. Why not? You must lis­ten to the branches and struc­tures. If they want to de­ploy me at that level, I will ac­cept.”

With just four months to go be­fore the ANC’s 53rd na­tional con­fer­ence, Mashatile has been lob­by­ing other pro­vin­cial lead­ers and seek­ing con­sen­sus on the next lead­er­ship in a bid to unify a di­vided ANC to help it re­gain pub­lic con­fi­dence. Last year, the ANC’s NEC di­rected pro­vin­cial lead­ers to man­age suc­ces­sion bat­tles in or­der to min­imise fall­out at the elec­tive con­fer­ence.

It was also an at­tempt to curb slate pol­i­tics – cir­cu­lat­ing lists of mem­bers favoured to as­sume lead­er­ship roles – which pre­vi­ously frac­tured the party and led to splin­ter groups.

Mashatile said the talks were not meant to un­demo­crat­i­cally stop peo­ple con­test­ing or cam­paign­ing, but rather, to avert a cri­sis where a fac­tion gets elected, only to lead the ANC out of gov­ern­ment in 2019.

“We don’t want the ANC to col­lapse. 2019 is a re­al­ity,” he said, adding that the ANC should be seen as an ally by po­lit­i­cal play­ers with a trans­for­ma­tive agenda.

The ANC needed to dis­cuss form­ing coali­tion gov­ern­ments even with par­ties such as the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers, he said.

The SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) had in­di­cated that the ANC might not get more than 50% of the vote if cer­tain is­sues were not ad­dressed, said Mashatile.

He ad­mit­ted that the years of the ANC get­ting 70% of votes were gone. “You should be happy as a party if you get 52%. That is how pol­i­tics goes.”

On how to rec­on­cile the grow­ing list of pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls within the party, Mashatile said ideally, they should team up in­stead of be­ing ri­vals. “If the ri­vals say, ‘Let’s go to con­fer­ence, let’s fight it out there,’ the ANC will be dead. If main ri­vals are un­will­ing to en­gage and talk but want a win­ner-takes-all op­tion, the ANC will col­lapse. It will split into two. We don’t want that.”

So far, Mashatile has met with pro­vin­cial lead­ers from KwaZulu-Natal, North­ern Cape, East­ern Cape, Mpumalanga, Western Cape and Lim­popo. All ex­cept Lim­popo sub­mit­ted the names of lead­ers they pre­ferred.

Mashatile was silent about the pos­si­ble out­come of these meet­ings, say­ing they were still on­go­ing.

Re­gard­ing his meet­ing with the KwaZulu-Natal lead­ers on Mon­day, Mashatile said: “We have re­alised that there are many things we agree on. We have agreed that we should not rush into dis­cussing can­di­dates’ names. We will re­visit that in August.”

How­ever, Mashatile said he shared the same per­spec­tive as Mpumalanga Pre­mier David Mabuza, who was un­der­stood to have switched al­le­giance from the so-called pre­mier league fac­tion – aligned to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and back­ing Dlamini-Zuma to lead the ANC.

Al­though he has not openly en­dorsed any­one, Mabuza’s re­jec­tion of fac­tions and the re­cent cho­rus about unity has tilted the scales in Ramaphosa’s favour. Mabuza is the only con­tender for the top six posts with a province fully be­hind him. This has driven all fac­tions to pur­sue him.

Both the Gaut­eng and Mpumalanga lead­ers were pre­par­ing to meet in the next few weeks. There will also be a fol­low-up meet­ing with KwaZulu-Natal’s ex­ec­u­tive soon.

An­other meet­ing was on the cards with the ANC Free State lead­er­ship, led by its chair­per­son, Ace Ma­gashule.

Mashatile em­pha­sised that there was no “big brother” in the talks among pro­vin­cial lead­ers.

He said there would be lots of bi­lat­eral meet­ings, pos­si­bly every week, be­tween pro­vin­cial and re­gional lead­ers to find com­mon ground on the can­di­dates for the NEC by Septem­ber, when the ANC of­fi­cially opens nom­i­na­tions.

In fu­ture, Mashatile said, he would pre­fer that can­di­dates were given a plat­form to tell South Africans why they should be pres­i­dent. How­ever, he re­jected Zuma’s power-shar­ing pro­posal that could see the los­ing ANC pres­i­den­tial can­di­date be­come the deputy, ar­gu­ing that it was un­likely to fly with branches.

“We would like to do things in such a way that we dis­cuss and have con­sen­sus be­fore there is a con­test. Once you’re in a con­test, there is lit­tle space for ne­go­ti­a­tions, so it is not vi­able,” said Mashatile.

“You win or you lose. It has al­ways worked like that. You can­not try for every po­si­tion; it’s like you don’t know what you want. Once you lose out on be­ing elected pres­i­dent, there will be no space for you.”

On the SACP, he said its idea of con­test­ing elec­tions in­de­pen­dently was not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. He said even if they con­tested, they could be ANC al­lies.

“I don’t think we should be alarmed to think it’s the end of the road. If the SACP wins a good num­ber of seats, I am sure they will work with us,” he said.

Do you sup­port the call for ANC pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to be given a plat­form to de­bate why they should be pres­i­dent?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word DE­BATE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Paul Mashatile

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