ANC breaks ranks over succession

The ANC’s Luthuli House has tried to smother the succession debate, but some provincial leaders have already started expressing their preferences for who should lead the ruling party.

In interviews this week, it emerged that provincial executive committees, including those that fall under the dominant faction known as the premier league, are not as united
as previously thought and several provincial leaders expressed
differing views on their pre-
ferred candidates.

This week Free State deputy chairperson and former Mangaung mayor Thabo Manyoni was not in agreement with his boss, Free State Premier Ace Magashule.

Speaking in his personal capacity, Manyoni concurred with those who say ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa should succeed President Jacob Zuma, in line with what is described as the party’s long-held tradition. Magashule has previously said there is no such tradition.

Manyoni said: “I will just say, check the history of the presidency of the ANC and decide for yourself. Of course, I’m not saying it should remain that way forever but it has become a norm.”

Magashule said last year: “We elect leaders during conferences.

“If we elected the deputy president to become president, it will not be because of the tradition. It will be because there is voting. It is not because we say this is something we must do.”

ANC insiders have said there has been a serious falling-out between the two men, who were once close allies. Manyoni was overlooked for re-appointment as Mangaung mayor after last year’s local government elections, which is believed to have further fuelled his unhappiness with Magashule.

The differences in opinion regarding Zuma’s successor would appear to exist in other provinces too, including in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the North West.

Although KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala has not made his preference public, he is believed to support ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize.

Others in his province, including the ANC Youth League, are in support of the outgoing African Union Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

A third group in the province, led by former premier Senzo Mchunu, back Ramaphosa.

Limpopo ANC chairperson Stan Mathabatha also favours Ramaphosa, whereas the provincial secretary, Knocks Seabi, is said to be aligned with those who support Dlamini-Zuma.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, who is being touted as the next deputy president, is believed to be prepared to fall in with any faction that would support him for the second most powerful position in the party.

The ANC’s national working committee has issued a instruction to party members and structures not to make pronouncements on presidential candidates but it has not stopped them — and Zuma — from expressing their personal views on succession and ANC tradition.

In an interview aired on SABC radio stations last week, Zuma said any cases when a deputy president had succeeded the president had been mere coincidence. “It’s not a policy, it’s not even like an accepted tradition as such.

“It has just happened that at a given time certain people, with the kind of understanding from other comrades, felt ‘well this one could stand’,” he said.

But the ANC’s acting chairperson in the Western Cape, Khaya Magaxa, said he believed the role of a deputy president was created with the intention that whoever occupied it would become president.

His sentiments echoed those of ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who told journalists in Johannesburg last week that ANC deputy presidents should be elected with succession in mind.

Magaxa said: “This thing of deputy in the ANC is new. We never had deputies in the early establishment until after unbanning.

“After Luthuli, we started having a deputy. The issue is that immediately when you talk about a deputy, you already have an objective of having that succession.”

On the issue of having a woman candidate, Magaxa said: “We currently have a lot of women in ANC leadership positions but sometimes the party takes very controversial positions against women in their presence.

“Therefore I don’t think it helps to put that as a prerequisite. People must identify a cadre with capacity to lead the country [and] not someone who will drag the ANC into a lot of controversies,” he said.

One of the ANC’s top officials in the Eastern Cape, who asked to remain anonymous because the party had yet to open the succession debate, supported the view that Ramaphosa should succeed Zuma.

“The culture of succession has been set and ought to be followed through. There is a tradition, which started after the unbanning of
the ANC.

“So to say that there is none when previous leadership have benefited from the expectation of that tradition being followed, I believe is unfair.

“Of course, we will have to wait for the branches to nominate candidates officially but there are already strong signals that comrades will insist that the tradition be followed,” the official said.

But the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary, Super Zuma, disagreed, saying the organisation should allow any member in good standing to contest the top position.

“You remember in 2012 President Zuma himself was contested by a deputy president.

“So the debate that’s coming up now, it’s as if it has never happened that a sitting president has been contested. It’s as if it’s trying to say, ‘because you are deputy president, you can’t be contested’,” he said.

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Dineo Bendile
Dineo Bendile works from Johannesburg. Political reporter. BLACK. Dineo Bendile has over 2712 followers on Twitter.
Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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