Choos­ing Lindiwe Sisulu as po­ten­tial deputy pres­i­dent could cost him sup­port of Mpumalanga

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion - By NATASHA MARRIAN

DEPUTY Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa is fac­ing a co­nun­drum over the se­lec­tion of his run­ning mate as the ANC’s pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion race hots up.

Over the week­end, Ramaphosa ad­dressed the Umkhonto weSizwe Na­tional Coun­cil flanked by pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Lindiwe Sisulu.

While Sisulu’s pres­ence at the coun­cil makes sense – she is a for­mer com­bat­ant – in­sid­ers say it is another con­fir­ma­tion that Ramaphosa views her as his run­ning mate in the suc­ces­sion bat­tle.

Ramaphosa is up against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is sup­ported by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. She is run­ning on a ticket for a fe­male pres­i­dent, with her staunch­est back­ers com­ing from the ANC Women’s League.

It is prob­a­bly this that led ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe, viewed as a sup­porter of Ramaphosa, to pub­licly in­di­cate that there could not be two men in the pres­i­dency, plac­ing pres­sure on Ramaphosa to en­sure that a fe­male can­di­date was rep­re­sented strongly on his slate.

En­ter ANC trea­surer-gen­eral and for­mer KwaZulu-Natal pre­mier Zweli Mkhize, and Mpumalanga party chair­man David Mabuza, who both have their sights on the post of deputy pres­i­dent.

Mkhize and Mabuza are close, and it is un­der­stood that Mabuza would back Mkhize for the deputy pres­i­dent post, set­ting his own am­bi­tions aside.

Mabuza has emerged as some­thing of a king­maker, with fig­ures cir­cu­lated by Man­tashe in­di­cat­ing that his prov­ince was set to bring the sec­ond-largest del­e­ga­tion to the ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, af­ter Dlamini-Zuma-aligned KwaZu­luNatal.

Herein lies Ramaphosa’s co­nun­drum.

Should he throw his lot in with Sisulu, he risks KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga – con­stituen­cies that Mkhize and Mabuza claim to bring to the ta­ble.

Se­nior ANC lead­ers sym­pa­thetic to both lead­ers say that ev­ery can­di­date for a top po­si­tion in the ANC should bring a con­stituency with him or her. Sisulu, ac­cord­ing to lead­ers in var­i­ous prov­inces, does not.

Those punt­ing the “unity ticket” say that Mkhize, with Mabuza, brings a large por­tion of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. But, say Ramaphosa back­ers, so does a se­nior leader on his slate: Senzo Mchunu.

For­mer KwaZulu-Natal ANC chair­man and pre­mier Mchunu and his back­ers have suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the ANC’s 2015 elec­tive con­fer­ence, which put DlaminiZuma-aligned Sihle Zikalala in the post of pro­vin­cial chair­man.

Mchunu com­mands con­sid­er­able sup­port in the prov­ince, and his re­la­tion­ship with Mkhize is part of the rea­son the ANC trea­sur­ergen­eral has fallen out of favour with the Ramaphosa fac­tion.

Mkhize ini­tially lent his back­ing to the pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship elected at the dis­puted 2015 con­fer­ence un­der Zikalala (he later with­drew his le­gal sup­port). It is un­der­stood that, as a re­sult, Mchunu’s sup­port­ers blame Mkhize for their can­di­date’s loss in that elec­tion, which has now been de­clared un­law­ful in court.

The court de­ci­sion declar­ing the elec­tion of the Dlamini-Zu­maaligned, Zikalala-led KZN lead­er­ship un­law­ful and void, was handed down last month at the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg High Court. That de­ci­sion – and how to han­dle it – is now a con­tentious is­sue among the ANC’s na­tional lead­ers.

Zuma and his back­ers have pushed for the judg­ment to be ap­pealed by the ANC in the prov­ince, while their op­po­nents have opted for a pro­vin­cial task team to be put in place to re­place Zikalala and the pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship struc­ture.

Sur­pris­ingly, at a spe­cial na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing last month, even some of Zuma’s ar­dent back­ers opted for the pro­vin­cial task team.

But Zuma re­sisted this, pro­vid­ing a le­gal opin­ion of his own – apart from one sought by the NEC it­self – to push for an ap­peal of the judg­ment.

The party is at an im­passe: the ap­peal is go­ing ahead, but should it fail and the court de­cide as much af­ter the na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, the out­come of the key gath­er­ing it­self could be nul­li­fied.

This is not the only le­gal as­sault the party is fac­ing ahead of its na­tional con­fer­ence.

The Zuma fac­tion has in the past week once again shown that it de­stroys what it can­not con­trol. This was ev­i­dent in the at­tempt by his fac­tion in the Eastern Cape to col­lapse that prov­ince’s elec­tive con­fer­ence last week­end, cul­mi­nat­ing in a court bid to halt the gath­er­ing.

The court bid failed, but the fight is far from over. The ANC’s pan­der­ing to Zuma over the past decade, dur­ing which he has en­trenched the by­pass­ing of in­ter­nal demo­cratic pro­cesses, is catch­ing up with the party.

Its NEC is now putting out fires in five of the nine prov­inces ahead of the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence.

The com­mit­tee’s big­gest prob­lem, how­ever, is that the party’s own leader is driv­ing the dis­sent as he des­per­ately seeks to in­flu­ence the out­come of the De­cem­ber gath­er­ing and en­sure Dlamini-Zuma emerges as his suc­ces­sor.

The months ahead pro­vide the ANC with a real op­por­tu­nity to break Zuma’s grip on the party, but will it?

At an of­fi­cial meet­ing on Mon­day, in which the sta­tus of the Eastern Cape gath­er­ing was dis­cussed, in­for­ma­tion ped­dlers were in over­drive, try­ing to spread the mes­sage that the elec­tion of the Ramaphosa-aligned Eastern Cape lead­er­ship was to be set aside.

How­ever, this was dis­puted by lead­ers who were present at the meet­ing. Ac­cord­ing to them, the na­tional of­fi­cials can­not take a de­ci­sion to nul­lify the con­fer­ence – only the ANC NEC can or­der that.

The next NEC meet­ing takes place in De­cem­ber un­less a spe­cial NEC meet­ing is called to deal with the is­sue, and no such de­ci­sion has yet been taken.

The out­comes of the chal­lenges to both the KZN and Eastern Cape elec­tive con­fer­ences are sig­nif­i­cant – but so is Ramaphosa’s choice of run­ning mate.

Should Ramaphosa re­main with Sisulu as a po­ten­tial deputy, he risks los­ing the sup­port of Mpumalanga.

How­ever, his back­ers in the prov­ince were adamant this week they would throw their sup­port be­hind him, ir­re­spec­tive of the pref­er­ence of pro­vin­cial chair­man Mabuza and “his so-called al­lies”.

There is another so­lu­tion be­ing punted by struc­tures in Gaut­eng and the North­ern Cape: a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment that al­lows for two deputy pres­i­dents.

Pos­si­ble amend­ments cir­cu­lated to branches for dis­cus­sion could al­low who­ever is elected in De­cem­ber to have two party deputies – to be de­ployed in gov­ern­ment or the party, as de­cided by the con­fer­ence.

While Ramaphosa back­ers in the main have scoffed at the sug­ges­tion, sources say the North­ern Cape has punted the prospect to his cam­paign­ers.

So, while the out­come of po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions on key court cases re­lat­ing to ANC struc­tures will have a far-reach­ing ef­fect on the out­come of the con­fer­ence, so too will Ramaphosa’s se­lec­tion of a run­ning mate. He needs to tread care­fully.

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