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Ramaphosa 'perfect' for ANC in Australia

M&G Correspondent

The party's deputy has the best credentials to expand its global reach, but SA expatriates may well be indifferent.

Perth's 35 328 South Africans make up almost a quarter of the 145 683 South African-born residents registered in Australia’s 2011 census.

Perth is a great place to live – just ask South ­Africans. In fact, the people of Mzansi might even love Western Australia more than Australians do. After all, the state accounts for only 11% of Australia's 23-million people, but its 35 328 South Africans make up almost a quarter of the 145 683 South African-born residents registered in Australia's 2011 census.

But how much support would the South African population give the ANC if it tried to set up a branch in that country's Bloemfontein-by-the-sea? Not much, says local Anton van der Merwe.

"I don't think there's going to be a lot of support from ex-South Africans," says Van der Merwe, a video designer who moved to Perth from Cape Town in 2008. "It's not that the ANC as a party is responsible for all of us leaving, but obviously, the way it is handling things is 99% of the reason everybody left."

If the ANC does set up a branch in Perth ­– started by a delegation that the Sunday Times reported Cyril Ramaphosa is planning to lead – it would follow the ruling party taking steps to set up a London branch.

Expanding to Australia would not be an unusual move. Political parties the world over have outreach programmes to enable their overseas supporters to network and raise funds. The Democratic Alliance has an overseas network of volunteers called DA Abroad.

The game is all about positioning, says Clive Thompson, a lawyer and the co-founder of Cheadle Thompson & Haysom Attorneys, a Johannesburg firm that made its name defending human rights during apartheid. Thompson, who has worked as a lawyer in Sydney for the past two decades, argues that the ANC is just doing what a political party has to do.

"It's part of ANC image-building and reputation-growing," Thompson says. "Any modern party needs to have global reach. There's nothing wrong with that."

Although the ANC has been damaged by the revelations of public money spent on Jacob Zuma's private home at Nkandla and Zuma is seen as leading a corrupt, ineffective government, sending Ramaphosa, with a political track record that dates back to the early days of Codesa and liberation, to open a party branch could be a smart move, Thompson says.

"Here's a party that is struggling on the ethics and delivery front," Thompson says. "Against that, if they are going to send anyone abroad to help recruit, I think Cyril Ramaphosa would be a perfect face of ANC renewal and would be the best person to lead such a drive."

The question, however, is not so much whether the ANC would get a supportive or a hostile reception in Perth – it's more a matter of whether the immigrant population has a political bone in its collective body.

"Why would it bother?" asks Rick Piovesan, a consulting engineer who left Johannesburg in 2006. "I don't see too many of my friends falling over themselves to go fundraising for the ANC, but equally, they wouldn't fall over themselves for the Democratic Alliance."

Thompson isn't so sure. He puts support for the ANC among Australia's predominantly white South African emigrants in the region of 20% to 30%. This, he says, is not insignificant. "It's a very distinct minority of those who've emigrated," he says. "They are likely to be strong ­supporters, capable of mobilising, fundraising and giving expertise."

The ANC may be able to count on one other source of support, Van der Merwe suggests. "Chances are, they will get support from Australians," he says. "We see a lot of Mandela stuff on TV and it [the ANC] is definitely portrayed as good to us, rather than a party that in this day and age is lacking a lot of character."

But still, why Perth? Although the city has a good number of South African residents, there are more on Australia's east coast.

Going by numbers, rather than packing for Perth the ANC might want to consider quitting for Queensland, splitting for Sydney or making for Melbourne. Queensland just beats Western Australia, with 200 more South Africans, according to the 2011 census. New South Wales comes in first with 40 246, with Sydney accounting for 33 652 of them. Victoria has almost 25 000. And given that in this year's election, expat South Africans who have registered to vote will be able to do so only in person on the other side of the country, at the high commission in Canberra, where they number just 1 631, the ANC is clearly not looking at this as a vote-winning exercise.

"It's not that it needs extra votes," Thompson says. "It's more that it needs an image of global reach."

Still, the wheels of politics will play out and if Ramaphosa's delegation does land in Perth, it can expect a welcome that will vary from indifference to enthusiasm and enlightened self-interest. After all, South Africans are nothing if not pragmatic. Engineer Piovesan, for one, spots a chance for business development.

"If Cyril wants us to do any work for him, propose a site for his office or build foundations – we'd be happy to do it," he says.


Senior leader 'might' decline nomination to Parliament

The ANC will hold its ­long-awaited national list conference on Monday to finalise the names of those who will represent the party in Parliament and in the provincial legislatures.

Members will want to see their names high up on the list. This means they are likely to get into the legislature – depending on the party's performance at the polls. But ANC members expect that a few of the party's senior leaders will decline nomination to Parliament.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is among those expected to turn down a nomination. This would possibly end his career in the executive.

By declining nominations to the ANC national executive committee (NEC), the minister responsible for planning, Trevor Manuel, and Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin reduced their chances of being appointed to the next Cabinet. When he declined the nomination, Manuel told the media that he wanted to move on and give way to a younger generation.

"It's not a step out of anger," Manuel said. "I am not going anywhere else. It is just that I have reached that time of life."

ANC sources think that President Jacob Zuma will not let Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan go, pointing out that in all the Cabinet reshuffles he never once tampered with finance.

Meanwhile, Western Cape members have claimed that former premier Ebrahim Rasool is expected to return from his position as ambassador in Washington to be deployed to the National Assembly and possibly made a Cabinet minister.

Zuma's international relations adviser, Lindiwe Zulu, is also allegedly "very high up on the list" for Parliament.

Former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni is another member seen as making a comeback to national politics. – Andisiwe Makinana & Mmanaledi Mataboge

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