​The success and failure of the lobbyists

The factions have finally become one but not everyone is happy with how the chips finally fell. Behind the scenes for months, lobbying and deal making has been the order of the day for both factions. After three days at the 54TH African National Congress the votes were finally tallied and the horse trading either paid off or has left some burned.

Mail and Guardian spoke to delegates on both sides who ran the machine that was the CR17 and NDZ campaign.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s Lobbyist

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was defeated after her team travelled the length and breadth of the country lobbying, making promises and bargaining for her to be the first female president of the African National Congress.

“I’m super fine, there is nothing that we did not do. We believed in her and we don’t feel we backed the wrong horse.”

He said there were numerous sleepless nights, especially in the last two months, but the exaggerated proximity to former president Jacob Zuma was her Achilles heel.

“Throughout her career she was never a proxy for Zuma and all of a sudden the media made this a central part of her campaign.”

But he conceded that KwaZulu Natal and the premier leagues were not the best partners in their campaign.

He highlighted the difficulty in raising money to drive the NDZ campaign.

“Provinces like the premier league guys had just enough money for their own provinces and not enough for the central campaign. That dealt us a blow.”

But the past 24 hours, he said, were the worst with extreme highs at the beginning, to hearing rumours that the Cyril Ramaphosa camp was to interdict the conference.

Time dragged on. Credentials were finalised and voting had to finally begin. His spirit, he said, was still high.

The feeling of fear started creeping in about seven hours before the final announcement was released.

“By that time I began feeling scared and I was really unsure what was going to happen. At times I thought my stomach was going to start running. Anything could happen,” he said.

According to the delegate, he started suspecting they had lost when he saw “creepy smiles” on the faces of Ramaphosa supporters.

“The messages with numbers were being passed around but I needed the official announcement. I had people quite high up saying we had lost. But people lie all the time,” he said.

When the final announcement was made he said he understood and though disappointed, he is looking forward to seeing how the new “mix-masala” top six was going to work out.

“DD (David Mabuza, deputy ANC president) sold us out and lied to us and so did Ace (Magashule, secretary general). They know what umama had in store for them but they have no idea what Cyril will do to them.”

Cyril Ramaphosa’s Lobbyist

Though Cyril Ramaphosa won the election, the backroom lobby are not happy with the top six outcome. One Gauteng delegate who has been lobbying for CR17 spoke to M&G and explained that he has many years attending conferences and this 54th “was cooked.”

The CR supporter said that their message was simply to save the ANC.

“Cyril has a particular posture that he has communicated to us in the country and to the international community. He has shown that he is the best candidate, incorruptable and truthful. Our campaign has strictly been to renew the ANC and bring back the honour of the party,” he said.

After months of work and lobbying especially at branch level at least two of the supporters main candidates were voted into the top six.

“We wanted Paul and Cyril. We got them but they can’t lead alone so we will have to make do with the combination we currently have,” he said.

But the relief that came after the announcement has not evaporated the 24 hours of panic and sleeplessnes.

“We were here all night and I still haven’t slept. It was one of the most gruelling voting processes with so much running behind schedule. Naturally in any process in a campaign there is a point where you think that you are winning and then you see the other side smiling and dancing and then you feel scared again,” he said.

He said they constantly had to do head counts to make sure they had the numbers.

“We needed to count bodies and it was an extreme stressful and worrying process,” he added.

Even though the president is Ramaphosa, the supporter is very concerned about how the swing votes seemed to fluctuate.

“This conference was arranged. This outcome arranged. There is nothing like this in the history of the ANC.”

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Athandiwe Saba
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession.

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