“My future is the ANC. The movement is my home and I have nowhere else to go,” Sexwale, human settlements minister, told the Mail & Guardian on Sunday.
The comments came exactly a week after Sexwale suffered a crushing defeat in the race to become the ANC deputy president at the ruling party’s elective conference in Mangaung, Free State.
Cyril Ramaphosa trounced Sexwale and Mathews Phosa to become the ruling party's deputy president by garnering 3 018 votes to the pair’s respective 463 and 470 votes.
President Jacob Zuma was too re-elected as ANC president, defeating the country's deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, by 2 983 votes to 991.
Both Phosa and Sexwale – along with all other candidates who ran against nominees aligned to Zuma - failed to make it onto the 80-member national executive committee (NEC) – the ruling party’s highest decision-making body.
The development gave rise to rumours of a possible purge in the government early next year as Zuma consolidates his power base after the conference.
But the minister attempted to play down his exclusion from the NEC, claiming that he has always been “in and out” of the body.
“Since the days of Oliver Tambo, after I was a prisoner on Robben Island, I served on the NEC,” Sexwale said.
“When I took a break [from politics] and went into business I was off the NEC for almost 10 years and returned in 2007. This doesn’t mean I am out – not at all.”
Sexwale was referring to his entry into the corporate world after serving as the Gauteng premier from 1994 until 1999.
Upon leaving the public sector, Sexwale founded Mvelaphanda Holdings which is primarily focused on mining, energy and related sectors.
He is said to have amassed a fortune to the tune of R1.9-billion in his time at the company, according to statistics released in 2010, and remains its executive chairperson.
Sexwale said 2013 would be “business as usual” for him in his role as human settlements minister – although he could not say for how long.
“No minister applies for the job or says what they feel like doing. You stay at the invitation and pleasure of the incumbent,” Sexwale added.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula – another unlucky loser at Mangaung – also pledged on Sunday to keep his government post.
Mbalula unsuccessfully ran against Gwede Mantashe for the role of ANC secretary general, losing by 3 058 votes to 901.
While Mbalula refused to speculate about his future in the ANC after also failing to be re-elected to the NEC, he clearly stated that he would continue in his role as minister of sport.
“I remain in my position until I hear otherwise. I haven’t heard of any plan to get rid of me,” Mbalula told the Mail & Guardian.
Other government officials who might be facing uncertain futures after failing to be elected include North West Premier Thandi Modise and Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile.
The duo lost to Baleka Mbete and Zweli Mkhize for the posts of chairperson and treasurer general respectively.
Jessie Duarte was elected unopposed to the position of deputy secretary general at the conference.
Safe ... for now
Conditions might be ripe for a Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of Mangaung, but sources close to the campaign that saw Zuma re-elected claimed a purge of the president’s opponents next year was improbable.
“Msholozi could fire these guys if he wanted to, but what will happen then?” the source, who requested anonymity, told the M&G.
At a business breakfast with the ANC’s other top six officials, Zuma on Friday attempted to allay fears of an immediate move on his opponents post Mangaung.
The president said Motlanthe would remain in his post as deputy president of the country until the end of the current administration’s term in 2014.
After that, Motlanthe was expected to head up the ruling party’s political school, an announcement made by Zuma in his closing address to the conference.
The source added that while Sexwale and the others who lost in Mangaung have “nothing to fear”, they would need to continue performing well in their respective posts.
“They must realise that we can’t afford any slip ups, we need to deliver on all our promises, and that means them doing their jobs properly,” the source said.