It's Ramaphosa vs 'Unity' in Mpumalanga ANC's presidential nomination battle

Mpumalanga has emerged as the second biggest ANC province, surpassing the Eastern Cape, in the latest audits to be used for the conference. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Mpumalanga has emerged as the second biggest ANC province, surpassing the Eastern Cape, in the latest audits to be used for the conference. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is competing against “Unity” in Mpumalanga ANC’s nomination rounds for new party leaders.

Sources claim that branches in the province have been ordered by Premier David Mabuza, and other provincial executive committee (PEC) members, to write the word “Unity” on nomination forms, instead of the names of candidates for the top six leadership positions - including for president.

“It is obvious it’s an instruction from above. There is no way that regions can do this without instructions from DD [Mabuza],” a PEC member, who did not want to be named, said.

The contest in Mpumalanga is Cyril vs Unity, he told News24. However, provincial secretary Mandla Ndlovu has denied that Mabuza has given branches any orders.

He said he was aware of the trend, but could not say how many of the branches had nominated “Unity”, with 40% of the branches having completed their nomination meetings.

“What they are seemingly saying is that they will prefer the unity of the ANC and don’t know how to consolidate that… that is my understanding from a distance,” Ndlovu said.

Mabuza - who is also a provincial chairperson - has styled himself as a “unifier” of the ANC in the fierce race to replace President Jacob Zuma at the December elective conference. He has been organising meetings with other provincial leaders to come to an agreement on the next leadership.

‘Who is this Unity?’

Sources close to him have said that he is expected to back “compromise” candidate Zweli Mkhize for the top post, with himself as his deputy.

Two sources told News24 that there was speculation in the province that Mkhize and Mabuza’s nominations would only happen from the floor at the December conference, which is allowed by the ANC constitution.

The “Unity” nomination was mostly in Ehlanzeni, the province’s biggest region, and in Gert Sibande.

Sello Shai - a branch secretary in Mbombela, in the Ehlanzeni region - confirmed to News24 that they had been instructed to write “Unity” on the nomination forms.

Shai, who publicly identifies himself as regional CR17 (Ramaphosa’s campaign tag line) campaigner, said the instructions were given at constitutional structures, which were addressed by PEC members.

“I have attended those meetings. ANC members are being instructed to nominate ‘Unity’ on top six positions. We don’t know who is this unity, which branch he or she belongs to,” he said.

The PEC member who spoke to News24 said some branch members, who wanted to go against the “instruction”, were being intimidated.

‘Compromise candidate’

Shai said, despite this, they were openly campaigning for Ramaphosa, without fear.

“We are not interested in any impersonal unity or compromise candidate. They must raise their hand and accept nomination, period,” he said.

Ndlovu said the province would decide on their preferred candidates at the provincial general council, expected to take place in mid-November after branch nomination meetings are concluded.

According to ANC guidelines announced by secretary general Gwede Mantashe, branches are supposed to nominate candidates and seal the names in envelopes to be opened and consolidated at provincial general councils.

The candidate with the highest nominations should be endorsed as a provincial candidate.

Mpumalanga has emerged as the second biggest ANC province, surpassing the Eastern Cape, in the latest audits to be used for the conference.

They are eligible to send 736 delegates to the elective conference.

“When they nominate Unity, they think there is still room to persuade one another, but there was no instruction from anybody, including chair of the province,” Ndlovu said.

Ramaphosa campaigners in the province said, where nominations had happened, he was leading.

‘Prized province’

In the Bohlabela region, 23 branches are said to have met so far, and 18 have nominated Ramaphosa, while five have nominated “Unity” for president, deputy president, secretary general, deputy secretary general, treasurer and national chairperson.

Similar trends have been seen in Thembisile sub-region, where six branches nominated Ramaphosa, one branch nominated his main rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and one went to “Unity”.

Dlamini-Zuma’s campaigners have privately claimed that they have Mabuza in the bag, with “differences” between the two having been resolved.

However, Dlamini-Zuma is yet to campaign in the seemingly “prized” province.

CR17 campaigners have also claimed that the branch nomination meetings are being frustrated by branches not being given the nomination packages, and meetings not forming quorums.

They claimed that some branch leaders were planning to embark on, what they called, a “signature campaign”.

“They will visit the branch members and make them sign the branch meeting registry, to make it seem as if the branch meetings formed a quorum,” the source said - News24

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