The Cat is out of the bag in the race to anoint the Chosen One

Thursday morning. The rain has stopped after what seems a lifetime. The sun’s crawling upwards through the grey blanket of cloud hanging over the Durban harbour.

The light has an air of purity, even innocence, about it, as if it has been cleansed by the days of incessant rain. It’s dead still.

I drink in the moment of quiet beauty. It’s as if I’m inhaling it, storing it in my body. In a little more than a week we’ll be at Nasrec in Soweto. I fear we may not see much innocence or purity at the ANC’s elective conference, given what’s at stake and the way things have gone in the run-up.

After the provincial general councils (PGCs), the leadership race is down to either ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. It’s either We Are Ready or Siyavuma. The Third Way appears dead, if it ever was alive.

The self-nominated presidential hopefuls, as KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala called them this week, have been winnowed out by the branches. Any dream that Lindiwe Sisulu, Mathews Phosa or Jeff Radebe was going to emerge as the Jesus of Nasrec has come to a somewhat abrupt end.


ANC national chair Baleka Mbete and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize didn’t have much fun at the KwaZulu-Natal provincial council. In his political report, Zikalala tore into them for throwing their hats into the ring. Mkhize in particular got a lashing from Zikalala, who is very specific in his interpretation of what the term “unity” means in the ANC.

Neither Mkhize nor Mbete stuck around for Zikalala’s closing address on Tuesday. Or the carefully stage-managed arrival of Dlamini-Zuma, to thank the comrades in person for endorsing her run for the presidency.

I did, even though I also caught a hiding. Mine was over my interpretation of which of Zikalala’s comrades was being lashed over their interpretation of unity. I went with ANC chairperson and Mpumalanga Premier David “DD” Mabuza.

The Cat, as Double Dee is known, dropped the “U word” at the Mpumalanga PGC last weekend. Along with 200-plus of the province’s branches, which suddenly turned teetotal and decided to abstain.

Clearly, some serious discussion had taken place between KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga behind the scenes. Mkhize’s unity proposals were opportunistic because he wanted to be the lahnee himself. Mabuza’s weren’t opportunistic because he wanted Dlamini-Zuma to be the boss, but he had purred in a rather Catlike fashion and, in return, had got himself a rather emphatic endorsement as deputy president from the comrades in KwaZulu-Natal. I had called the list of those being lashed wrong, it turned out.

An overnight correction wasn’t enough to keep me off the list of those being lashed, though. By 6.30am on Tuesday the provincial ANC had gone all Mangosuthu Buthelezi and issued a press statement about the story, which, theoretically, by that time no longer existed.

Fair enough. Politics, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, is a full-contact sport. Not for the faint-hearted. Or the thin-skinned. Neither is writing about it.

The statement had to be issued, though. On Monday, Ramaphosa’s campaign pulled off something of a coup at the KwaZulu-Natal PGC. The Dlamini-Zuma camp has to be at the very least unsettled by the outcome, given the way the numbers are playing themselves out around the country.

At Polokwane, only one of the province’s branches backed Thabo Mbeki’s bid for the ANC presidency. At Mangaung, only a handful declared their support for Kgalema Motlanthe. Ahead of Nasrec, 191 of the 690 KwaZulu-Natal branches that made it to the PGC endorsed Ramaphosa. This time, the KwaZulu-Natal branches are no longer the kingmaker at conferences. The Mpumalanga branches are, it seems.

In this context, nobody wants to upset The Cat.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

Related stories

This is how the SIU catches crooks

Athandiwe Saba talked to the Special Investigating Unit’s Andy Mothibi about its caseload, including 1 000 Covid contracts

Richard Calland: Not much has shuffled in the political pack

Stocktake at the end of a momentous year shows that the ruling party holds all the cards but has little room for manoeuvre

Tighter Covid restrictions for N. Mandela Bay — other hotspots may follow

With the number of cases spiralling out of control in hotspots in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, longer curfews and restrictions on alcohol sales are being implemented

Watch it again: Ramaphosa addresses the nation

The president's address follows a special sitting of Cabinet, which considered recommendations of the National Coronavirus Command Council

ATM withdrawal halts no-confidence vote against Ramaphosa

The party wants the court to rule on the secret ballot issue first, with the case set to be heard in early February

Andile Lungisa: Early parole for the house of truth

Disgraced Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Andile Lungisa calls for a change of leadership in the ANC immediately after being released on parole
Advertising

Subscribers only

FNB dragged into bribery claims

Allegations of bribery against the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, thrown up in a separate court case

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

More top stories

Blast rocks Durban’s Engen refinery

Residents are being evacuated as firefighters battle to control the blaze

ConCourt asked to rule that Zuma must testify for 10...

It is Zondo's legal end game and will leave the former president, his supporters and those implicated in state capture to increasingly play fast and loose at imputing political motive to the commission

Carlos on Oozymandias’ goodbye grift

"Look on my works ye Mighty, and gimme 50 bucks!"

This is how the SIU catches crooks

Athandiwe Saba talked to the Special Investigating Unit’s Andy Mothibi about its caseload, including 1 000 Covid contracts
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…