/ 29 October 2007

Support swells for Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa has been formally nominated to lead the African National Congress, media reports said on Monday — though the businessman has maintained he is not interested in the position.

The ANC’s Rondebosch branch in Cape Town has nominated Ramaphosa as its candidate in the party’s succession race.

ANC stalwarts such as former Cabinet minister Kader Asmal, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk and Western Cape education minister Cameron Dugmore are members of this branch.

Asmal put forward Ramaphosa’s name and received support from most members attending a branch meeting last week. The names of President Thabo Mbeki, the current party leader, and his deputy, Jacob Zuma, were also put forward but received little support, Beeld newspaper reported.

The ANC’s powerful OR Tambo district in the Eastern Cape already stated in early September that it would nominate Ramaphosa for the party presidency. Regional secretary Mlamli Siyakholwa told the Sunday Times at the time that ”we have been lobbying Ramaphosa, I must admit”.

Siyakholwa said Ramaphosa had been approached as a unifying candidate in the interests of the party’s unity, in order to avoid a divisive battle between Mbeki and Zuma. While the region is pro-Zuma, the provincial leadership’s stance is that Mbeki should serve a third term as ANC president.

”It is not because we do not want JZ [Zuma] any more. We feel that with the serious contestation of KwaZulu-Natal strongly in support of Zuma and Eastern Cape strongly in support of Mbeki, the ANC will suffer if either of these two comrades wins,” said Siyakholwa.

Rondebosch branch chairperson Amos Mboweni told Beeld at the weekend that he has a mandate to vote for Ramaphosa at the ANC’s leadership election in Polokwane in December.

Asmal told the newspaper: ”Yes, I think he will be an excellent leader for the ANC and for the country,” but added that he had not discussed the nomination with Ramaphosa ahead of time.

The Mail & Guardian reported in August that a sense of frustration was creeping into various groupings within the tripartite alliance and the business community that wanted Ramaphosa to enter the succession race for the leadership of the ANC and the country.

Sections of the business community worried that the former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) might be running out of time because he had not yet indicated an interest in running for the ANC’s top job.

Having stayed clear of the divisive succession debate, Ramaphosa enjoys the support of several leaders in big business. He is said to be receptive to views that he should stand for the party presidency, but has been absent from any of the leadership tussles.

As a former unionist, Ramaphosa is expected to rely on the support of the NUM, the biggest affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Yet Ramaphosa will be supported by the NUM only if Zuma does not stand.

Optimists suggest Ramaphosa could win the hearts and minds of cadres in Gauteng, where the broad tripartite alliance is not united behind one candidate.