Former ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, whom businessman Cyril Ramaphosa replaced as deputy president during the party's electoral conference in Mangaung, has been appointed to head the party's mooted school of political education.
"Leading the ANC political education needs to be a senior member of the ANC who is schooled in the traditions of the movement," newly re-elected ANC president Jacob Zuma announced in his closing address on Thursday, before the eruption of prolonged and enthusiastic cheers from the audience.
Motlanthe opted to run against Zuma for the position of president after a battle by his supporters within the party to get him elected, which was damaging to his chances of remaining in the ANC's top six leadership. His acceptance of the nomination at the last minute, while withdrawing from running for his then incumbent position as deputy president, set him up to be ousted from the position.
He then declined nomination to the party's national executive committee (NEC) – its top decision-making body. The lack of unity in the party emerged from the conference as a key concern for the ANC's leaders after the bruising leadership battle, and Motlanthe's move made delegates nervous about losing a strong leader and causing further disunity.
Zuma's move to appoint Motlanthe, which he said he did in consultation with Motlanthe and Ramaphosa, sent out a strong message of unity, despite the fact that pro-change leaders have been thoroughly removed from top leadership structures in the party.
Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa, Fikile Mbalula, Paul Mashatile and Thandi Modise, who all openly opposed Zuma for a second term, were not successful in their nominations for any of the top six positions and were all excluded from the new NEC list voted for by delegates.
Zuma's inclusion of Motlanthe in this token role potentially protects him from the accusation of a purge.
The ANC has discussed the need for improved political education for some time, partly as a solution to damaging public statements by some in the party. Zuma noted that the time for talking about the school was over and it was time to implement the idea.