Sisulu shapes up as Cyril’s Number 2

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has emerged as the favourite for the position of ANC deputy president despite Cyril Ramaphosa publicly endorsing Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor for the number two position.

Although Sisulu’s presidential campaign may be flagging, she has harshly criticised the prevalent bribing of delegates, which she says has undermined the ANC’s regeneration initiatives.

So far, Sisulu has been nominated by two provinces — the Northern Cape and Western Cape — to be Ramaphosa’s deputy.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Sisulu said she had not thought about the possibility of serving as Ramaphosa’s deputy, and was focusing on getting her message across.

“I haven’t sat down to think through the deputy president position. I have been selling a particular message and that’s in the manifesto,” she said.

“Whether I make it as an ordinary member of the NEC [national executive committee] or nothing at all, we would have sent a particular message — that we need a change of narrative and deep introspection. A renewal and actually ensuring we can get back to the values that make us different from Cope [Congress of the People] or any other organisation.”

Sisulu also bemoaned the dominance of money over the social media campaign in the ANC’s succession race. It is the first time that ANC candidates have used social media to campaign for a party president.

“I wish that the opening up of new media platforms was as powerful as the power of money. What I have discovered, much to my dismay, is that the power of money is in the body politic of the ANC, through and through. The campaign for the regeneration of values is being bought out by the power of money on a regular basis.”

She said, throughout the preparation and nominations for the conference, money was changing hands.

“And as long as branches are being bought, we are sowing the seeds of corruption. The more money you have, the better chance you have at getting wherever you want to go. And throughout this period delegates have had their hands glazed. It’s quite unfortunate.”

Sisulu is being nominated on Ramaphosa’s slate along with Gwede Mantashe as chairperson, Gauteng ANC leader Paul Mashatile as treasurer and former ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader Senzo Mchunu as secretary general.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s slate includes Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza as her deputy, Free State Premier Ace Magashule as secretary general, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa as chairperson and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as treasurer.

While the horse-trading goes on over positions in a bid to ensure a united ANC after the conference, Sisulu this week said the gathering was not about personalities but about what it would mean for the ANC at the 2019 elections.

“It’s a pity that by its very nature the space we’re in now concentrates on the person. The issue is: What do we want from this conference? I want to ensure that the ANC emerges in 2019 with a clear win and a mandate from the people. This conference will decide whether or not we have a decisive victory, and we need that.”

Ramaphosa shocked many of his supporters when he publicly endorsed Pandor as his deputy, following rumours that Sisulu had rejected his overtures to be part of the CR17 campaign. But branches continued to nominate the daughter of struggle icons Walter and Albertina Sisulu.

In the Western Cape, Sisulu received a landslide majority of nominations, beating Pandor by 98 votes to 17. In the Free State, the ANC held a hastily organised provincial general council — from which Ramaphosa’s supporters were missing.

Mabuza was the overwhelming favourite of Free State delegates for the position of ANC deputy president with 208 votes — his first provincial nomination. But Sisulu came in at second place, with 28 votes, which is an indication that she is Ramaphosa’s backers’ candidate for deputy.

The falling-out between Ramaphosa and Sisulu emanates from her refusal to be solely a candidate for deputy president when some branches were asking her to stand for the position of president. She also angered some in the Ramaphosa camp after she questioned Mantashe’s struggle credentials.

Speaking to the M&G in October, Sisulu said she had chosen Ramaphosa to be her deputy as part of her campaign.

This week, she said her campaign was meant to get her elected as president.

“The position of running a campaign, it’s run by a presidential candidate and that gives us a particular space to send a message. And that’s what we have done.”

The ANC’s number two position is likely be expanded at the conference. Constitutional amendments currently being discussed by branches include creating posts for two deputy presidents.

At the national policy conference, President Jacob Zuma proposed automatically awarding one deputy president position to the loser of the presidential contest and letting the other position be contested.

The proposal for two deputy presidents has also received support from presidential candidates such as ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize, although he believes both deputy president positions should be contested.

But Sisulu said she was not aware of the proposal being discussed by branches and, even if it was, the ANC would only be able to implement the changes at the 2021 conference.

“I go to my branches regularly and haven’t come across them [proposed amendments] and my branches are in deep rural areas. For something like this to take root, it would have had to be discussed in the policy conference. You would have needed to educate people about the possibility and what the up and downside is for them to have even taken a mandate,” she said. 

KwaZulu-Natal tally up in the air

As many as 50 KwaZulu-Natal ANC branches may be forced to rerun their branch general meetings (BGMs) this weekend as the province gears up for its provincial general council meeting in Durban on Monday and Tuesday.

The campaigns for both deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and national executive committee (NEC) member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were keeping mum about how many of the province’s 806 eligible branches had chosen each of the presidential hopefuls, saying the appeals were making it difficult to consolidate a provincial tally at the time of writing.

Dlamini-Zuma was well ahead in the province at last count and taking the vast majority of the branches in the two largest regions — eThekwini (Durban) and Moses Mabhida (Pietermaritzburg) — where most of the appeals had been lodged, according to Ramaphosa campaign spokesperson Sithembiso Mshengu.

Almost 100 branches, mainly in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, had lodged appeals with either the disputed provincial executive committee (PEC) or the national dispute resolution committee, headed by NEC member Naledi Pandor. The committee was appointed by Luthuli House to deal with disputes, which arose during the branch general meetings.

“It is difficult to present a consolidated figure as to how many branches have backed each candidate. To try and do so with so many appeals and reruns coming up would be a thumbsuck,” Mshengu said.

“Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is ahead in the province, but I can tell you that, if the playing field was levelled, the NDZ camp wouldn’t be ahead, but that is a matter for another day,’’ he said.

Vryheid councillor Lawrence Dube, the leader of the supporters of former KwaZulu-Natal premier and ANC chairperson Senzo Mchunu and who successfully challenged the KwaZulu-Natal 2015 provincial conference outcome, said the branch general meetings process had been heavily manipulated in the two regions.

“’This is the reason we took the PEC to court. We feared that they would manipulate the BGM process ahead of conference and they have done just that.

“The large number of appeals in eThekwini and Moses Mabhida is evidence of that manipulation,” Dube said.

The ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli was also unable to provide a consolidated figure for the outcome of the last round of BGMs.

“I don’t have a final result thus far. I think the provincial secretary is consolidating the figures for the provincial general council meeting,” Ntuli said.

Provincial secretary Super Zuma did not respond to calls at the time of writing. — Paddy Harper

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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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