/ 4 December 2017

Ramaphosa emerges as frontrunner in ANC presidential race

(Graphic: John McCann)
(Graphic: John McCann)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has emerged as the frontrunner among the ANC’s branches in the race for the party presidency ahead of his main contender, former African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The last two ANC provinces to announce their nominations – KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo – held their provincial general council meetings today, with Ramaphosa nominated by 1 862 branches nationally ahead of Dlamini-Zuma’s 1 441.

While Ramaphosa made a clean sweep in Limpopo with 391 branches to Dlamini-Zuma’s 104, KwaZulu-Natal swung her way as expected, with 433 of 688 branches nominating the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member as their choice of president at the elective conference later this month.

However, Ramaphosa received nomination from 193 KwaZulu-Natal branches, something of a coup in itself given the province’s history of acting as a united voting bloc in support of President Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007 and again at Mangaung in 2012. A further 56 branches abstained from choosing a presidential candidate, while only six nominated ANC treasurer general Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Apart from the branches, the ANC’s Youth League, Women’s League and Veterans all have 60 votes each at conferences. The Youth and Women’s Leagues are expected to back Dlamini-Zuma, apart from a few dissenting members, while Ramaphosa can count on the backing of the Veterans.

The nine Provincial Executive Committees each have 27 votes at conference and are expected to vote along similar patterns to those which their PGC nominated on.

At the KwaZulu-Natal PGC, ANC Mpumalanga chairperson David Mabuza received 434 nominations as deputy president, compared with 68 for Lindiwe Sisulu, 53 for Naledi Pandor and 59 for Zweli Mkhize.

Arts and Culture Ministers Nathi Mthethwa was KwaZulu-Natal’s choice of chairperson (358 branches), with Gwede Mantashe being backed by 190 branches. Free State chairperson Ace Magashule was KwaZulu-Natal’s choice for secretary general (418 branches) compared with 192 backing former KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Senzo Mchunu for the post. Jessie Duarte was backed by 357 branches as deputy secretary general, while the Cosatu’s Zingisa Losi secured the support of 111 branches. Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane was backed by 289 branches as treasurer general, ahead of Paul Mashatile (188) and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (116).

At the conference, ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala rejected the argument advanced by Mkhize for a “unity” candidate to replace the existing frontrunners as ‘opportunism’ aimed at subverting democratic practice in the party.

Zikalala, a fierce backer of Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the ANC used his political report to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial General Council to push back at Mkhize’s suggestions of a compromise candidate for the presidency.

Zikalala said some people had been talking about unity to promote themselves and try and ‘suppress’’ others, rather than leaving the decision making up to the ANC branches. This was manipulation and ‘’opportunism’’ under the guise of building unity.

“Unity is not a name. Unity is not about an individual. Unity is about the collective and collective leadership,” Zikalala said.

“Opportunists,” he said, would argue “remove others and put me instead.”

“Unity is a concept, unity is not about an individual,” he said. “Unity is about ensuring that opposing comrades are accommodated.”

Zikalala was highly critical of ANC leaders who had approached the leadership race like the presidential primaries in the United States.

“The collective hysteria of these platforms and individualised campaigns in which comrades have been self-justifying and popularising themselves at the expense of the ANC and what it stands for has a huge potential to cause colossal problems to the movement beyond the conference and as we prepare for the 2019 general elections,” he said.

Speaking on the side lines of the PGC Zikalala said they were engaging other provinces to agree that all those who contested the tops spots be accommodated in the party National Executive Committee (NEC).

“Even those who do not make it to the top six or seven must be accommodated in the NEC. We can’t have leaders who have capacity not elected into leadership positions,” he said.

Turning to Mkhize’s proposal, Zikalala said that while they were engaging other provinces, “there are some issues which are negotiable and some on which we remain steadfast.”

“We will be guided by the nominations at the PGC. We must all be humble and ensure that we put the interests of the ANC above the interests of individuals,” he said.

Zikalala said that no matter what the outcome of their appeal against the Pietermaritzburg High Court judgement declaring the PEC’s election in 2015 null and void ‘’we are going to need each other.

He said that should Dlamini-Zuma lose, something that “I do not think is possible” he would continue to serve under the successful candidate.

“I am in the ANC. We are all members of the ANC,” he said.