/ 29 March 2018

2019 polls: ANC to call in the big guns

Many in the ANC agree that the party needs former president Thabo Mbeki to bolster its legitimacy.
Many in the ANC agree that the party needs former president Thabo Mbeki to bolster its legitimacy.

ANC top brass will meet former president Thabo Mbeki this week to convince him to join the party’s campaign ahead of next year’s general elections, ANC insiders told the Mail & Guardian this week.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the ANC’s and the country’s president has brought hope that the party could win the 2019 general election convincingly, but party leaders are leaving nothing to chance after the ANC lost three key metros — Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane — in the 2016 local government polls.

Although some in the Ramaphosa camp believe the party could win elections if it were to go to the polls tomorrow thanks to the change in party leadership, most ANC 
national executive committee (NEC) members objected to Ramaphosa’s proposal to bring the elections forward during its meeting over the weekend.

Opponents of the proposal argued that the party first needed to prove to the country it was serious about fighting corruption and deliver much-needed services.

An NEC member sympathetic to Ramaphosa who attended the meeting said the party had to restore lost confidence before it could even think of calling early elections.

“The matter [the proposal to bring the elections forward] was tabled at the NEC meeting, but we said we can’t entertain it now. We need to consolidate all our efforts to build strong structures, look at the rot that is there in government and make sure we deliver on our promises, and then we can be able to look at it [the proposal].

“We can’t have early elections while the masses of our people are still unhappy. That was the conclusion. It [the proposal] was not wholly rejected but we agreed we will review it later, depending on how we perform, because we can’t promise people slogans,” said the NEC member.

ANC insiders also said that the party’s head of elections and campaigning, Fikile Mbalula, presented his election strategy to the NEC and said he needed 14 months to implement it.

A second NEC member described Mbalula’s election strategy as solid and that almost every NEC member was happy with it.

“The marching order [from Mbalula’s plan] is that the election campaign should be all-inclusive. Every member of the ANC, and even those who were outside, must be brought in. We want all veterans, including Thabo Mbeki, to be part of the campaign.”

Whereas former president Kgalema Motlanthe has already agreed to campaign for the party, Mbeki previously said he had not been informed by anyone in the ANC’s top leadership about the decision to involve him in the campaign for the party.

“The officials will meet him [Mbeki] this week,” said the NEC member.

The olive branch to Mbeki comes as the party attempts to rebuild its credibility with the public, after former president Jacob Zuma was replaced by Ramaphosa.

Zuma is due to appear in court next week on charges including corruption, fraud and money laundering.

Meanwhile, rebel ANC branches in the Eastern Cape will pursue a Constitutional Court appeal against the outcome of the party’s violent elective conference last year, despite the NEC’s endorsement of the leaders who were elected.

Regions that opposed chairperson Oscar Mabuyane at last year’s conference were surprised by the NEC’s decision to disregard a report recommending disbanding the provincial executive committee (PEC) and replacing it with an interim task team. Instead, a political compromise, which entailed Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle remaining in office, was found.

The report, by former minister S’bu Ndebele, found the provincial conference should not have continued after violence erupted and chairs were thrown at Masualle’s faction. The NEC said it “noted” the report and its recommendations, but chose its own solution.

This is probably because of the implications that nullifying the Eastern Cape PEC would have on the outcome of the ANC’s national conference at which Ramaphosa was elected. But regions that supported Masualle said this was not their concern.