Last chance saloon for Mbeki-ites

A significant number of former Cabinet ministers known to support former president Thabo Mbeki, including former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former public enterprises minister Alec Erwin, could well be on their way back to public life as MPs after this year’s general election.

Other ministers who quit after Mbeki’s dismissal who also appear on the ANC’s 777-name national list are former public works minister Thoko Didiza and former local government minister Sydney Mufamadi. Less surprisingly, the list also includes current Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Foreign Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Notable absences are Mbeki’s former deputy Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka and former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad. Some of Mbeki’s allies are well-placed on the list: Manuel is fourth, Dlamini-Zuma fifth; education minister Naledi Pandor 12th; Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula 15th and her husband Charles Nqakula 26th. Other Mbeki-ites who feature prominently on the list include Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba (16), current Public Enterprise Minister Bridgette Mabandla (34), head of government policy Joel Netshithendze (41), Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica (42), Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mphahlwa (50) and Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni (70). Surprisingly, given that she was sidelined as health minister after Mbeki’s demise, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang comes in at 49.

The show of confidence by ANC members in Mbeki’s loyalists is a major blow to the Congress of the People (Cope), which predicted a purge by ANC leaders close to Mbeki. Such leaders were expected to defect en masse to Cope if they failed to make the list. Whether Zuma, almost certainly South Africa’s next president, retains Mboweni and Manuel in their current positions remains to be seen. His supporters on the left have made it clear that they want sweeping macro-economic policy change, which Mboweni and Manuel would oppose.

The Mail & Guardian reported last week that Zuma’s left-wing allies are pushing for Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, 346th on the ANC list with only 253 votes, to replace Manuel. ANC national executive committee member and businessperson Cyril Ramaphosa, another possible contender for the finance portfolio, has declined nomination. Also declining are former spy boss Billy Masetlha, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and former ANC chief whip and convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni.

The ANC will decide at a special executive committee meeting this weekend whether former ANC Women’s League President Winnie Madikizela-Mandela should be deployed to Parliament. Madikizela-Mandela, who received a three-and-a-half year sentence suspended for five years for fraud in 2004, was fifth on the ANC’s list.

Under the Constitution, anyone with a criminal conviction of more than 12 months without the option of a fine cannot become an MP within five years of completing the sentence. The ANC’s list committee will present a comprehensive report at this weekend’s meeting, looking at whether each candidate complies with the ANC’s criteria.

This includes not having a criminal record, history of ill discipline and not having fostered party divisions and conflict. The list committee also looked at whether the final provincial lists reflect 50/50 gender parity.

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