‘We were lied to’; ‘It was cooked’

The factions have finally become one but not everyone is happy with how the chips fell. Behind the scenes for months, lobbying and deal-making has been the order of the day for the CR17 and NDZ factions. After three days at the 54th ANC conference the votes were finally tallied and the horse-trading either paid off or has left them burnt.

The Mail & Guardian spoke to delegates (who preferred anonymity) on both sides who ran the machines that were the Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma campaigns.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s lobbyist

The ANC MP was defeated despite her team travelling the length and breadth of the country lobbying, making promises and bargaining for her to be the first woman president of the ruling party.

One of her lobbyists said: “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 league” were not the best partners in NDZ’s campaign.

He highlighted the difficulty in raising money. “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 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 at that point.

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.

He started suspecting they had lost when he saw “creepy smiles” on the faces of Ramaphosa’s 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.”

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, the new deputy ANC president] sold us out and lied to us and so did Ace [Magashule, the new secretary general]. They know what uMama had in store for them but they have no idea what Cyril will do to them.”

Cyril Ramaphosa lobbyist

Though Ramaphosa won the election, the backroom lobby is not happy with the top six outcome. One Gauteng delegate, who has been lobbying for CR17, explained that he had attending many conferences and this, the 54th, “was cooked”.

He said Ramaphosa’s campaign 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 [Mashatile, the new treasurer general] and Cyril. We got them but they can’t lead alone, so we will have to make do with the combination we currently have.”

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

“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 they constantly had to do head counts to make sure they had the numbers. “It was an extremely stressful and worrying process.”

Even though the ANC president is Ramaphosa, the lobbyist 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.”

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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