Mot­shekga gives league a headache

To the women’s league’s cha­grin, its for­mer head is cam­paign­ing for Ramaphosa to be ANC leader

Mail & Guardian - - News - Di­neo Bendile

Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga has be­come a thorn in the side of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s cam­paign to be­come the next ANC pres­i­dent. A for­mer ANC Women’s League pres­i­dent, Mot­shekga is call­ing on all her sup­port­ers in the league’s branches to back Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa as the next ANC leader.

In 2015 Mot­shekga, who en­joyed sig­nif­i­cant sup­port within the league, failed in her bid to be re­elected to the body’s top po­si­tion, losing to Batha­bile Dlamini.

In the past few weeks, a num­ber of women’s league struc­tures have con­tra­dicted the po­si­tion taken by the league’s na­tional lead­er­ship to sup­port Dlamini-Zuma. Mot­shekga has been a cen­tral fig­ure in ral­ly­ing sev­eral league branches be­hind Ramaphosa.

With three months left be­fore the cru­cial ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence, the league’s na­tional lead­er­ship finds it­self hav­ing to muz­zle voices that ap­pear to be show­ing dis­sent against its de­ci­sion to sup­port Dlamini-Zuma.

Last month, the league lam­basted Mot­shekga for al­legedly hold­ing ral­lies un­der its ban­ner to cam­paign for Ramaphosa.

An ANC leader close to Mot­shekga told the Mail & Guardian this week that she was hard at work mo­bil­is­ing sup­port for the deputy pres­i­dent ahead of the party’s na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber.

“Wher­ever she goes, she pulls a huge num­ber of women to her side. That’s why they are threat­ened. She is a ground worker. If she be­lieves in some­thing, she goes for it. The ten­sion that you see now … she turned them,” a se­nior ANC in­sider said.

Mot­shekga was seen along­side Ramaphosa dur­ing a women’s league event in Rand­fontein, west of Jo­han­nes­burg, early this month. Sport­ing her green-and-black league blouse, Mot­shekga watched as mem­bers sang, sig­nalling with their hands a call for a change of lead­er­ship.

There was amuse­ment as a pop­u­lar song, sung orig­i­nally for DlaminiZuma, was adapted to de­clare open sup­port for the deputy pres­i­dent.

“On your marks, get set, we are ready for Ramaphosa,” some women’s league mem­bers sang.

This has caused anx­i­ety among the league’s na­tional lead­er­ship as Mot­shekga, de­spite no longer serv­ing in any of­fi­cial women’s league struc­ture, still has the in­flu­ence to pull num­bers in favour of her can­di­date of choice.

In ad­di­tion to the West Rand re­gion, the Vhembe district in Lim­popo as well as some branches in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape have declared their sup­port for ei­ther Ramaphosa or Lindiwe Sisulu, the lat­ter be­ing tipped to take over as Ramaphosa’s deputy.

ANC sources sym­pa­thetic to Mot­shekga claim that, de­spite losing her 2015 bid for the women’s league pres­i­dency, she had the up­per hand at the start of the con­fer­ence and is be­lieved to have en­tered it with the sup­port of at least 70% of the del­e­gates. Her pop­u­lar­ity be­came clear when 75% of the del­e­gates voted in favour of the adop­tion of cre­den­tials con­firm­ing the le­git­i­macy of del­e­gates when Dlamini-Zuma’s sup­port­ers were op­posed to it.

But a se­nior ANC leader told the M&G that a des­per­ate move by Mot­shekga’s op­po­nents saw her for­tunes quickly shift.

“Af­ter the adop­tion of cre­den­tials, the ‘premier league’ came to the con­fer­ence and threat­ened mem­bers of the [league] from Free State, Mpumalanga and North West that, if they did not sup­port Batha­bile, they must re­main in Jo­han­nes­burg. That’s when ev­ery­thing turned,” the leader said.

“The first night of the con­fer­ence they dis­bursed a truck full of blan­kets and track­suits to mem­bers of the [league who were] sup­port­ing Batha­bile. It was a very cold night. There was no way those mem­bers would not sup­port Batha­bile’s group.”

The di­vi­sions sown in 2015 have con­trib­uted to the un­prece­dented re­bel­lion the league now faces as it tries des­per­ately to preach unity and the need to toe the na­tional line.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Ralph Mathekga said, al­though there was room for an al­ter­na­tive view within the league, the cur­rent dis­unity was more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of fac­tional op­por­tunism.

“They know how to use the women’s league for those fac­tional bat­tles. In fact, they are op­por­tunis­tic rather than [be­ing] an al­ter­na­tive,” he said.

Mathekga said that, de­spite her in­flu­ence, Mot­shekga would strug­gle to es­tab­lish her­self as a cred­i­ble leader of the al­ter­na­tive voice be­cause of her long his­tory of al­le­giance to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

“The space ex­ists for an al­ter­na­tive, but the prob­lem is the in­di­vid­u­als who want to oc­cupy that space have been part of the prob­lem,” he said.

“The prob­lem with Angie is that she is a for­mer ally of … Zuma and with them, it’s so sad be­cause it’s a fam­ily. The Mot­shekga fam­ily aligned it­self with the pres­i­dent so closely. She can do all she can, but the ques­tion will al­ways be [around] her le­git­i­macy as an al­ter­na­tive.”

A se­nior league mem­ber said fears about Mot­shekga’s in­flu­ence were an ex­ag­ger­a­tion of one per­son’s power. She said it was likely dis­sent­ing struc­tures were try­ing to use Mot­shekga as the face of their re­sis­tance with­out her aware­ness.

“Some­times, if you have led be­fore, peo­ple will in­vite you. You get in­vited, you re­spond to that in­vi­ta­tion and then, when you get there, say: ‘Eish, maybe I shouldn’t have come here,’” she said.

But she ac­knowl­edged that Dlamini-Zuma’s cam­paign was fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, with struc­tures only now start­ing to re­volt af­ter months of the league de­liv­er­ing a con­sis­tent mes­sage. “It’s clear that some peo­ple choose to process the de­ci­sion [to sup­port Dlamini-Zuma] dif­fer­ently. And I don’t think there’s any­thing she can do about it. She has no con­trol at all.”

Rene­gade: Angie Mot­shekga (above) lost her pres­i­den­tial re-elec­tion bid to Batha­bile Dlamini at the ANC Women’s League’s elec­tive con­fer­ence in 2015 (left), but she still has a lot of sup­port on the ground. Pho­tos: Del­wyn Vere­samy

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