Fresh from an informal endorsement of Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC, the party in the Eastern Cape has revealed who they want to be elected among the top six leaders: ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu and chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise.
With 136 207 members, the Eastern Cape is the ANC’s second biggest province and has emerged as a battleground for winning support among the top six contenders.
This weekend, the party’s Eastern Cape regions squared off in a violent brawl over the election of a new provincial leadership, with the faction loyal to Premier Phumulo Masualle exchanging blows and litigation with supporters of newly elected chairperson Oscar Mabuyane.
Masualle’s supporters are known to back former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, though the premier himself supports Ramaphosa.
Mabuyane’s supporters are torn between endorsing Ramaphosa or Mkhize, who has already scored an official nomination from the Eastern Cape’s Alfred Nzo region.
Lining up behind the Dlamini-Zuma campaign are the Nelson Mandela Bay, Amathole and Joe Gqabi regions, while the Ramaphosa camp holds the majority support in the OR Tambo, Sarah Baartman, Alfred Nzo, Chris Hani and Dr WB Rubusana (Buffalo City) regions.
Now with their presidential preferences clarified, regional leaders are hoping to consolidate the names of who should be elected alongside the next president.
Sarah Baartman: 73 branches
“We agreed that the established tradition of the ANC [where the deputy president succeeds the president] must not be tampered with, therefore Cyril Ramaphosa must take over,” Sarah Baartman regional secretary Scara Njadayi told the Mail & Guardian.
His region’s 73 branches have come out in support of a proposal by Zuma to have the office of the ANC deputy president extended to accommodate two candidates.
“We know there are other strong candidates such as Zweli Mkhize and Lindiwe Sisulu. We think those comrades must be integrated in the perspective led by Ramaphosa … We are of the view that Lindiwe Sisulu must be considered as one of those deputies and Zweli Mkhize considered the other one,” Njadayi said.
Joe Gqabi: 45 branches
The Joe Gqabi secretary, Mfundo Bongela, said the region’s “point of convergence” was that a compromise is necessary to achieve unity — a stance adopted by Mkhize’s campaign. The region’s loyalty is split between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa’s presidential bid, though it said it supported having two deputy presidents.
“We support the view that we must extend the [number of] officials, but we don’t just do that to accommodate comrades because of factions … We must say regardless of which side a person is on, if they have capacity to help the ANC move forward, we must be mature enough to accept,” he told the M&G, echoing Mkhize’s sentiments.
Buffalo City: 50 branches
In Buffalo City, chairperson Xola Pakati told journalists at the provincial conference that his region is not “homogenous” and that “different perspectives are emerging from different branches”.
Amathole: 120 branches
Amathole regional secretary Teris Ntutu has bucked the trend of the Eastern Cape accepting the ANC’s deputy succession tradition. “It should not be about ganging up on others to choose the current deputy president or the female candidate. Issues of tradition should not arise. Let’s allow members of the ANC to choose anyone that is eligible,” Ntutu said.
His region was divided over Mabuyane and Masualle, and now Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma appear to hold equal support.
Chris Hani: 110 branches
Lusanda Sizani, secretary of the Chris Hani region, said their preferred candidate is Ramaphosa: “If the president is a male, in terms of comrade Cyril, we will be comfortable if the deputy president is a female,” he said.
Another member of the regional executive committee (REC), who did not want to be named, admitted that Sisulu had emerged alongside Ramaphosa as his possible deputy in polling of its branches.
“But we do not have an official resolution on her,” the REC member said.
Alfred Nzo: 101 branches
The Alfred Nzo region publicly announced two months ago that it wants Mkhize to be elected the next president. The region’s deputy secretary, Tseleng Sobuthongo, this week explained that Mkhize should be joined by Ramaphosa and Modise.
“We’d like to see her [Modise] in the top leadership because she has the right qualities. We don’t want to make it about her being female. We’ve seen her leadership style in Parliament and her track record is good,” Sobuthongo said, explaining that the top six should also include Sisulu.
“There can be a space [for Sisulu] because we know her [track record] in the revolution,” she added.
Nelson Mandela Bay: 60 branches
The Nelson Mandela Bay region is expected to be among the few areas in the province where Dlamini-Zuma could pull support from all its branches. This is also the stronghold of former provincial executive committee member Andile Lungisa, who is one of the chief lobbyists for Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign.
OR Tambo: 146 branches
The OR Tambo region, the biggest in the province with 146 branches, is solidly behind Ramaphosa, secretary Lulama Ngcukaitobi told the M&G just hours before he was elected secretary of the province.
Sisulu and Mkhize have made significant inroads in the region, which includes Mthatha, another REC member said.
The debate about who should be the next ANC president and deputy has reached fever pitch in the Eastern Cape, most regional leaders said.
But some admit it would be easier to reach a consensus on the position of national chairperson, as current secretary general Gwede Mantashe remains one of the most popular national leaders the province has produced.