Ramaphosa backers out to woo Eastern Cape

Supporters of ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa are pinning their hopes on the party’s provincial structures to boost his campaign to become president of the ANC, now that all the party’s leagues have endorsed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The Ramaphosa group is working hard to win the Eastern Cape, the second-largest ANC province. The province is scheduled to hold its conference in July, with provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane hoping to oust current chair Phumulo Masualle.

The Northern Cape ANC was the first province to endorse Ramaphosa officially as the next party president. Trade union federation Cosatu, with 1.7-million members, also endorsed Ramaphosa. Although Cosatu does not have any voting rights at the ANC conference, its workers are members of ANC branches. The Eastern Cape conference will determine who the province is likely to vote for at the ANC’s national conference in December.

Mabuyane is regarded as one of Ramaphosa’s strongest backers and Masualle, a close Zuma ally, is said to be supporting Dlamini-Zuma.

Masualle’s campaign is backed by regional leaders such as Andile Lungisa, seen as the chief lobbyist for Dlamini-Zuma. Lungisa said Masualle deserved to be chair because of the unity he has fostered among ANC branches.

“In the Eastern Cape there is political stability, a clear programme of action and there is unity … We’ll be dishonest if we say the stability is not attributed to the chair,” Lungisa said.

The Eastern Cape will be a crucial battleground in the ANC succession race because KwaZulu-Natal – the ANC’s biggest province by membership and a solid voting bloc for Zuma at the last two national conferences – is now riven by divisions.

Last week Ramaphosa visited Whittlesea near Queenstown, where ANC branch members endorsed him, chanting “nguwe [it’s you]” when he asked them to elect leaders who would not steal the public’s money.

The military veterans’ association and the ANC Youth League have released the names of their preferred candidates for the top six leaders of the ANC, none of whom come from the Eastern Cape. They are Dlamini-Zuma as president, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza as deputy, Free State Premier Ace Magashule as secretary general, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa as chair, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as treasurer general, and Jessie Duarte to remain as deputy secretary general.

“That’s exactly why they won’t get support from the branches, because of exclusionary slates like that,” said a senior ANC leader from the Eastern Cape this week, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian anonymously.

But a senior leader supporting Masualle fired back: “That thing is early stages; it’s not going to be how the top six will look like. There is only a consensus on the position of president.”

Both camps claim to hold majority support. Masualle scored official endorsements from five out of eight regions, but Mabuyane’s camp relies on support from branches that are rebelling against the regional executive committees.

“We have support from five out of eight: Nelson Mandela Bay is solid behind our campaign. Joe Gqabi, Chris Hani, Buffalo City and Amathole are all behind us,” a Masualle lobbyist told the M&G.

“Out of 715, we have 445 branches supporting our campaign. And on top of that we’ve got the youth league, ANC Women’s League, veterans’ league and, in the PEC [provincial executive committee], there are only seven people against us,” the lobbyist added.

But Mabuyane’s backers are not convinced. The OR Tambo, Sarah Baartman and Alfred Nzo regions have publicly backed Mabuyane.

A provincial leader said Masualle’s supporters have been “misleading themselves. They are moving around telling lies … they will never win it.”

The branches have apparently rebelled because the regional committees told branches they would be campaigning to continue with the status quo – with Mabuyane and Masualle returning to their current party positions uncontested.

Now, the branches are “up in arms after being duped”, said a member of the party’s Eastern Cape PEC.

In the Joe Gqabi region, which is in Barkly East, only 15 of the 40 branches showed up for a regional general council to ratify the decision to endorse Masualle, in what was seen as a clear sign of unhappiness.

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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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