Sports minister Fikile Mbalula is finally coming in from the cold, but is he eligible for a spot in the province?
After ANC delegates in Mangaung voted him out of all senior structures in the ruling party, it seems that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula might revive his career in Gauteng. He has confirmed that he has been approached to stand as chairperson of the party’s contentious province.
Ironically, this is the province that refused to endorse his nomination to stand as secretary general against the incumbent Gwede Mantashe at the party’s elective conference at Mangaung in 2012.
Mbalula was coy this week about whether he would accept nominations by ANC branches in Gauteng or not.
“Yes, I have been approached to consider standing for the chairman position and I reserve my position in relation to that,” said the former youth league leader, who lost against Mantashe.
“I will announce my decision at the right time.”
Mbalula was punished by ANC delegates at Mangaung for supporting former ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Jacob Zuma as ANC president.
The sports minister was not elected on to the ANC national working committee – the party’s management structure – nor the party’s national executive committee, its second-highest decision making body.
But Zuma retained him in his Cabinet, after first promoting him from deputy minister to full Cabinet posts amid several reshuffles.
During Zuma’s first term as president Mbalula was also close to then ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
Together, they were part of a faction that did not want Zuma to do a second term as president, a battle that led to Malema’s ejection from the party, and the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters.
But Mbalula appears to have regained the confidence of ANC members after the fractious Mangaung conference two years ago – he was the sixth most popular leader on the parliamentary list just before the elections earlier this year.
Mbalula and Gauteng Premier David Makhura are being lobbied by different ANC factions to take on former arts minister Paul Mashatile for the powerful position of provincial chairperson.
Mbalula is mainly supported by a faction linked to former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, and Makhura is being pushed by some ANC branches within the larger Johannesburg region, most of which are in Soweto, the provincial ANC Youth League, as well as the South African Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu.
The provincial conference is scheduled to start on September 24.
Asked whether he would consider running against Mashatile – who is known to be his longtime ally and friend – Makhura said in an SMS to the M&G this week: “I have no intention to discuss this matter in the media. I will discuss my opinion and attitude on the leadership question with the relevant structures of the movement.”
The Mashatile-led faction want Makhura, who has been the ANC’s provincial secretary for more than a decade, to take the position of deputy chairperson, and Mashatile to be re-elected as chair.
The group also wants Gauteng’s former health MEC, Hope Papo, to replace Makhura as provincial secretary and speaker of the Gauteng provincial legislature Ntombi Mekgwe as treasurer.
Mashatile referred questions to ANC provincial spokesperson Nkenke Kekana, who said the nomination process for leadership positions was under way.
“Branches of the ANC are nominating and those who are nominated will indicate their availability at conference.
“It is an ANC provincial conference and only members of the ANC in Gauteng are eligible to stand or be nominated,” said Kekana, implying that Mbalula was not eligible to stand as he was originally from the Free State.“