The race for each of the ANC’s top six positions is affecting succession in the party’s provincial structures, which are also going through their own leadership transitions.
Leaders who currently sit on the provincial executive committees are positioning themselves to take over as chairpersons, and various provinces are pushing to place their own leaders in the party’s most senior ranks.
LESUFI vs MAILE
In Gauteng, the ANC wants to ensure that whoever succeeds current chairperson and Premier David Makhura will be able to arrest the precipitous electoral decline that the party has experienced in recent elections.
The ANC has been losing ground since the 2014 election, when its traditional voters began to rebel against the corruption witnessed during the Jacob Zuma era.
In the November local government election, the party failed to win an outright majority in almost all the municipalities it held, and had to rely on coalitions to hold on to power in some. However, it could not hold on to the big ones – Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.
To stop the electoral decline, supporters of Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi want him to succeed Makhura.
His backers say:He’s the man who’ll save votes for the ANC in Gauteng.
However, Human Settlements, Urban Planning, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile is also eyeing the post.
Sources say senior leaders on the national executive committee have been trying to get both Lesufi and Maile to reach a compromise in terms of which the latter becomes the chairperson, while the former gets the deputy chairperson’s position.
The problem, they say, is that former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau is also being put forward for the deputy chairperson’s position.
“Our primary concern is that, if we go to the conference for contestation with things the way they are, the aftermath will be huge and we might lose the province in 2024,” says an insider.
MAKHURA TO REPLACE MAGASHULE?
Insiders say the main challenge for Gauteng lies in finding a position for Makhura at national level.
They are pushing for Makhura to get the powerful secretary-general position, but with current ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile in the running for the deputy presidency, there are fears that the top leadership would be too Gauteng-heavy.
Makhura has another problem.
“Makhura’s quality and he knows the organisation, so he’s actually secretary-general material, but, nationally, he doesn’t have a base, since none of the lobbies is talking about him, including those supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa and their opponents, the radical economic transformation faction,” says an ANC leader.
There is already dissatisfaction that Ramaphosa, party chairperson Gwede Mantashe, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and Mashatile are all based in the province.
To get around this perception, in 2017 Ramaphosa piggybacked on his Limpopo blood ties, Mantashe relied on his Eastern Cape roots and Duarte was accommodated based on racial diversity.
“Gauteng will have a problem if Ramaphosa stands for re-election as president because there’d have to be a geographic representation of candidates. There must be a provincial spread among the top six. It isn’t that fundamental, but it can play a role. People are seeing it in other provinces and they aren’t entirely happy,” says the leader.
WHAT OTHER PROVINCES ARE SAYING
In KwaZulu-Natal there is a lobby that wants to field provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala, Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu and former minister of health Zweli Mkhize for various top six positions.
The province remains scarred by the fact that it did not secure a single top six position for the first time since 1994, because it went to the conference divided between supporters of Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 2017.
In the Northern Cape, provincial chairperson and Premier Zamani Saul is also being touted for a top six position, while the Eastern Cape is looking at Mantashe, current chairperson and Premier Oscar Mabuyane and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Mabuyane faces an ouster at the upcoming provincial conference, so he will need to be accommodated at national level.
A strong Mpumalanga lobby wants Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, while others are looking at Mabuza and former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa.
Mabuza, who is said to be disengaged from government work, is apparently interested in the secretary-general’s role, which would give him control over the ANC’s organisational machinery.
A source says:It would make him the most powerful secretary-general ever, with the government experience and blue lights to go with it.
North West structures are punting the familiar names of former premiers Thandi Modise (now minister of defence) and Supra Mahumapelo (now a parliamentary portfolio chairperson). However, City Press understands that Mahumapelo wants to regain the provincial chairperson’s post.
In the Free State, some structures are lobbying for suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule to contest the ANC presidency, but his allies would prefer him to return to his old post and are favouring Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to contest Ramaphosa.
In Limpopo, the ANC is seeking to send Premier Stan Mathabatha to a national position, but current provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane is also receiving support for national deployment.