President Cyril Ramaphosa’s allies and supporters are working furiously in front and behind the scenes to secure him a second term as head of the ANC, while his opponents mobilise to dethrone him at the party’s elective conference in December.
The ANC’s 110th birthday gathering this weekend in Limpopo – preceded by a week of the presence of the national executive committee (NEC) in the province – was the site of intense lobbying at the beginning of a heated political year in South Africa.
During a brief interaction with the media following his January 8 address yesterday, Ramaphosa expressed shock when asked whether he was ready for a second term as the president.
“I have been hearing about this noise and it is also fuelled by the media. We’ll hear from the branches when that time comes,” he said.
City Press understands that, while there is an intention to field a candidate to take on Ramaphosa in December, the sentiment among his opponents is to leave him in office, take the other top five leading positions and then flood the NEC with their people. In this way, they believe he will be rendered powerless and they will be able to dictate the agenda.
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is among those being lobbied to stand against Ramaphosa, but it is unclear whether any of the proposed candidates agree with the idea.
The so-called radical economic transformation (RET) faction aligned to former president Jacob Zuma and suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule has been making strides in many regions around the country, assuming control of structures in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, where regional conferences have been held.
However, despite the president’s camp losing four out of five ANC regional conferences in Limpopo, his allies are working on a strategy that they hope will align the RET faction and Ramaphosa’s supporters behind him for a second term (now dubbed CR22).
NO THREAT TO SECOND TERM
Police Minister Bheki Cele, who is also a member of the NEC and a key Ramaphosa ally, is among those who are confident that there is no threat to his position.I don’t have any alternative to the president I have now. There’s nothing that tells me to even think of changing. Whether you’d come to me yesterday, or you come to me today or tomorrow to ask me who the president is, he is Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.Police Minister Bheki Cele
ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said it was “not a bad idea” for Ramaphosa to have a second term, but he was interrupted by party chairperson Gwede Mantashe while expressing his thoughts on the matter.
In Mpumalanga, Ramaphosa is also poised to get support from whichever ANC faction wins the upcoming provincial conference.
The Mpumalanga ANC will, tentatively, convene its long-overdue conference in the first week of next month, although some members have challenged the legitimacy of the provincial executive committee and could derail the plan.
PHOSA REJECTS OVERTURES
Mpumalanga has an RET lobby group that has courted former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa as its presidential candidate. Phosa, however, has rejected their overtures.
The RET faction’s presence in the province, coordinated by former state security minister Bongani Bongo, has not yet been felt.
In North West, the provincial ANC elective conference is also due to be held in the next few months, and aspirant candidates are already doing the groundwork.
Given that the party has opted to rebuild the provincial ANC structures from top to bottom – with the provincial conference, unusually, preceding the regional conferences – the focus in the North West lobby has mainly been on how regions divide the top five positions among themselves for diversity and representativeness, including when it comes to the roles of women and young people.
Last Sunday, former ANC MP Nono Maloyi was the first to throw his hat into the provincial chairperson ring during a mass gathering of party members.
However, party insiders in North West say that only once the picture of the provincial leadership is settled will they vigorously begin lobbying ahead of the ANC’s national elective conference.
HOW RAMAPHOSA CAPTURED LIMPOPO
During Limpopo provincial chairperson and Premier Stan Mathabatha’s welcoming speech at the January 8 celebration at Peter Mokaba Stadium yesterday, he boldly announced that Limpopo was endorsing Ramaphosa for a second term.Branches have expressed support for ANC leadership without exception. Our support for him has nothing to do with the fact that Limpopo is his ancestral land. Some say we’re jumping the gun. Without fear or contradiction, Limpopo says it wants President Cyril Ramaphosa for a second term.Limpopo provincial chairperson and Premier Stan Mathabatha
“We’re not jumping the gun when we say that we’re happy with his work and we’ve aligned ourselves with his vision, his leadership and his commitment to the renewal of the ANC. When the curtain opens to campaign, we’ll campaign for President Cyril Ramaphosa,” he said ” he said to the delight of the ululating and applauding crowd.
An NEC member said Limpopo had never really had an RET faction.
“There were just people who opportunistically clubbed in with Magashule because they were in the same boat of corruption allegations involving the VBS Mutual Bank heist,” he said.
In Vhembe, Mantashe was welcomed by the key leaders of both factions, who have been showing solidarity after several meetings with veteran leader Enoch Godongwana and Mashatile.
Several highly placed sources within the party say Ramaphosa has managed to obliterate the factions.
Others say Godongwana used his close relationship with provincial treasurer Danny Msiza to infiltrate the camps and persuaded them to unite for the sake of the party.
Mashatile used his relationship with suspended deputy chairperson Florence Radzilani with the same goal in mind.
Godongwana apparently arrived in Limpopo late last month and has been meeting with the two camps in various regions in a bid to bring them together.
“He started by meeting the provincial leaders who have influence, like Msiza and [provincial secretary] Soviet Lekganyane, since his arrival [in December]. He then went on to different regions, where he met with chairpersons and secretaries of the branches, preaching unity,” said a source.
Godongwana’s efforts began yielding results when the Vhembe regional leadership turned their backs on Magashule by instructing a branch in Musina to suspend a pre-planned event intended to host the former secretary-general. The event had been meant to coincide with the ANC’s 110th anniversary.
Vhembe’s regional secretary Rudzani Ludere wrote a letter reprimanding the ward 8 branch chairperson Fistos Mafela in Musina for having planned to host Magashule during the anniversary celebrations.
Vhembe’s conference was won by the camp that is aligned to Msiza, which is known as RET Forces.
According to sources, the two factions agreed to work together because they have a common desire to retain Ramaphosa as president.
“However, the RET faction in the province also realised that they don’t have a strong personality who can take Ramaphosa on; they understand that he’s popular in the country,” said a source.The RET faction has many good leaders, but no one popular enough to challenge him.Source
When Mantashe was deployed in the Vhembe region, he was also given a mandate to neutralise the factions – something he is thought to have achieved.
Mantashe arrived in Vhembe on Tuesday and was welcomed by leaders of both the RET and CR22 factions. The source said Mashatile, who was returning for the second time after his visit last month, went to Sekhukhune and Mopani to try to collapse the factions and get them to endorse Ramaphosa.
He was met by the newly elected chairpersons and secretaries of both regions and those known to be CR22 supporters.
Another source said Mashatile had also been playing a key role, especially since he had begun acting as secretary-general after Jessie Duarte fell ill.
Other role-players include Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, who has been visiting the province and helping to ensure that Ramaphosa gets the support of the branches.
Sources said Ramaphosa’s deployment in Waterberg was also a strategy to boost his support, because the region has yet to convene its conference, which is planned for later this month.
During his engagement with traditional and interfaith leaders on Thursday, Ramaphosa confidently declared that he was the archbishop of obliterating the factions. He said he did not support any of the factions – only the ANC.
MPUMALANGA MAY STILL BE TRICKY
Mpumalanga has had an acting chairperson (provincial secretary Mandla Ndlovu) and an acting secretary (deputy secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali) since December 2017, when Deputy President David Mabuza was elected to the NEC.
The ANC in Mpumalanga is ravaged by factions – and it appears that four of them will be contesting the conference. However, three are likely to amalgamate against the Ngci faction, which supports Mabuza.
Other factions are Focus, which wants Ndlovu to be chairperson, RMT (which backs Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane) and one rooting for the deputy director-general in Mtshweni-Tsipane’s office, Peter Nyoni.
A member of Focus told City Press that Ramaphosa still had support across all factions in the province.The president will emerge victorious in the next conference because his support in the province is still intact. I think we’ll need to engage from the position of deputy president downwards.Member of ANC Mpumalanga faction
The RMT faction is, according to a lobbyist, unwavering in its support of Ramaphosa.
“We haven’t thoroughly engaged with the matter of the deputy president, but we’re in favour of supporting a woman candidate,” he said.
Nyoni said Ramaphosa should be re-elected to continue with the renewal of the ANC.
“The president and his deputy must run for a second term. As Mpumalanga, we must be proud that we are hosting the deputy presidency and if Mabuza is not elected, we will not have anyone in the top six,” he said.
Nyoni said that although he had run-ins with Mabuza, he backed him. The Ngci faction wants Mabuza to continue as second in command, but they will not let an opportunity to ascend the presidency escape them. Mabuza has already declared that he is available.