‘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
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.
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