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Zuma's allies take key NEC posts

Charles Molele, Mmanaledi Mataboge

Shifts on the ANC's national executive committee reflect the president's gratitude, writes Charles Molele and Mmanaledi Mataboge.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The ANC chose continuity and expertise when it appointed new subcommittee heads of its national executive committee (NEC) – more than 80% of them served on these structures in Jacob Zuma's first term of office. But the rewarding of political loyalty is noticeable, with 12 out of the 14 subcommittee heads being staunch Zuma supporters who ­campaigned for, or backed, his re-election. Below are the eight new members. Lindiwe Sisulu was re-elected.

Lindiwe Zulu: communications
One of Zuma's most trusted lieutenants, Zulu is an upfront leader who was one of the first to defend Zuma against a public attack by the ANC Youth League leadership. She publicly rebuked the league several times, including when it called for "regime change" in Botswana and questioned Zuma's leadership. Zulu also testified on Zuma's behalf at the disciplinary hearing of expelled youth league leader Julius Malema.

The Umkhonto weSizwe veteran, who is also Zuma's international relations adviser, is energetic and vibrant, which fits the profile of a leader needed to whip the ANC's not-so-upbeat communications machinery into shape. Although she's better known for her expertise in international relations, Zulu has served on the NEC's communications subcommittee since 2007, worked as ANC national spokesperson in 1993 and 1994, produced several ANC internal magazines, was an ANC communicator in MK training camps and previously headed the ANC Women's League communications.

Nathi Mthethwa: political education
The police minister's appointment as chairperson of the subcommittee on political education has raised eyebrows. After his re-election in Mangaung, Zuma told the delegates that the former ANC deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, would lead the party's political education programme.

It is unclear how Motlanthe, a party stalwart, will work with the younger Mthethwa as his boss. Mthethwa replaces Tony Yengeni, who fell out of favour with the leadership because of his association with the group who wanted to replace Zuma with Motlanthe.

Mthethwa is a close Zuma ally and campaigned vigorously for his re-election.

Enoch Godongwana: economic transformation
The former head of the ANC's economic policy section is a natural choice to lead the economic transformation subcommittee. Godongwana and his committee urgently need to clarify economic policy decisions taken at Mangaung, particularly how the taxation on super profits recommended in the ANC's research report, State Intervention in Minerals Sector, will work. He was Zuma's pointsman on the nationalisation of mines, shooting down ­suggestions from as early as 2009 when the youth league proposed it. He was, in effect, charged with shepherding in policies to transform the mining sector, which he did to the ANC top brass's satisfaction.

Obed Bapela: international relations
A deputy minister in the presidency, Bapela is no stranger to international relations. Following the disbandment of the ANC Gauteng provincial executive committee in 2000, Bapela was deployed as co-ordinator of the ANC's international relations and he represented the party at international and regional conferences. He is also a former member of the portfolio committee on foreign affairs and a chairperson of the interparliamentary group on international relations.

Bapela, one of the key lobbyists for Zuma's re-election, said this week his appointment was based on "the knowledge that I amassed after I was deployed at Luthuli House in 2000 and in Parliament in 2004, working on international relations".

Nomvula Mokonyane: organisation building and campaigns
The Gauteng premier faces a big challenge in filling the shoes of her predecessor, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who was popular and excelled at working the crowds. Her appointment is a reward for leading Zuma's re-election campaign in Gauteng, beating the province's ANC leadership, which nominated Motlanthe for the position of party president. Mbalula lost his NEC seat for campaigning against Zuma.

Mokonyane's appointment comes before the 2014 general elections, in which the ANC hopes to win a two-thirds majority. ANC insiders say she has the energy and dynamism to lead the committee but they are concerned that she will have little time left to run Gauteng, which is facing a health and housing crisis.

Lindiwe Sisulu: social transformation
Social cohesion, nation building and patriotism are all close to Sisulu's heart. She has been loyal to all ANC presidents and survived political storms since the ANC was unbanned. She was on a team of three who helped to get Zuma off corruption charges in 2009 and refused to join the clique that failed to unseat Zuma in Mangaung, although her name was mentioned for a possible position in the top six on their slate.  

With her subcommittee, Sisulu needs to find ways of casting the ANC as a champion of social transformation and human development. Thanks to her subcommittee's work, the ANC will now sing the country's national anthem in full, including the Afrikaans and English versions of the apartheid-era Die Stem.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: peace and stability
This Umkhonto weSizwe veteran is entrusted with the task of ensuring that the ANC leads efforts to maintain peace within and beyond the country's borders. She is well placed to lead the subcommittee because she heads the department of defence and military veterans, which is responsible for the country's security and for participating in peacekeeping missions in Africa.

She successfully shifted her loyalty from former president Thabo Mbeki to Zuma, and has been a staunch political ally of his since then.

Her experience in peace and stability also comes from serving in departments that play a role in the country's security: home affairs and correctional services. Her background in ANC military and intelligence structures in exile, and of being a member of this subcommittee since 2007, are other important recommendations.

Naledi Pandor: education and health
Pandor has experience as minister of education and has served on the ANC's education and health subcommittee since 2002.

But it's her performance in government posts rather than in party politics that makes her the right choice. Pandor seldom gets involved in politicking or taking sides.

Currently the minister of home affairs, her knowledge of government systems will come in handy for the post. When she was education minister, Pandor oversaw an overhaul of the education system and led reforms to implement outcomes-based education better, which was already perceived as a failure.

When the textbooks were not delivered to Limpopo schools last year, the no-nonsense, hands-on Pandor said she would have driven a truck to do the job herself if she was still education minister.


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