Gauteng Premier David Makhura is likely to be elected unopposed as the ANC’s Gauteng chairperson after ANC branches that were expected to revolt against him decided to support him.
The ANC regional conference in Ekurhuleni last weekend resolved to endorse Makhura to take over the powerful position of provincial chairperson that was left vacant after Paul Mashatile was elected to national office as ANC treasurer general in December.
ANC leaders in the Johannesburg and Sedibeng regions, which held their conferences last weekend, told the Mail & Guardian that they would also throw their weight behind Makhura as the new provincial chair.
Makhura’s relationship with branches in some of the regions in Gauteng has been turbulent in recent weeks, following his decision to refer alleged tender irregularities in the economic development department, led by MEC Lebogang Maile, to the Special Investigating Unit.
Maile is supported by a grouping in the province that is aligned to Mashatile and wants him elected as deputy chairperson instead of Makhura’s preferred pick, former Johannesburg mayor and ANC chair in the Jo’burg region Parks Tau.
Some branches in Ekurhuleni, where Maile finds a large portion of his support, had threatened to snub Makhura and support former Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, who chairs the ANC in the Tshwane region, as an alternative candidate for the top position.
But it now appears that plan has been abandoned. Newly elected Ekurhuleni ANC regional secretary Thembinkosi Nciza said that region’s conference had resolved to support Makhura because he was seen as someone who would bring stability to the province.
“He is experienced organisationally. We also don’t want to bring confusion [in the province]. He is one cadre who has been in Gauteng for a long time, and we are going into tough elections, so he is someone who not only understands structures but also understands government. So we [will] support him as a region,” said Nciza.
New Sedibeng chairperson Thulani Kunene said he would also support Makhura because of his long history of serving in the party’s “top five” in Gauteng. This, he said, would ensure the continuity of leadership and ideas.
“He has demonstrated able leadership, both as secretary and deputy chairperson over the years, and even now as acting chairperson he has demonstrated that he can take the province forward,” Kunene said.
In his address to the regional conferences in Ekurhuleni and Sedibeng, Makhura appealed to ANC members to put their differences aside for the sake of unity in the organisation. He urged them to accommodate candidates who had unsuccessfully contested the top five positions on the regional executive committees.
A senior government official and ANC member in Gauteng told the M&G that Makhura’s calls for party cohesion were a last-ditch attempt to salvage his relationship with the branches that had accused him of being factional in his targeting of Maile’s department.
“That situation can explain why this guy is all of a sudden preaching unity, because he came under fire after isolating Lebogang [Maile]. He was on the back foot,” the official said.
Nciza said, in Ekurhuleni’s branches, it was ensured that leaders with differing views were represented on the regional executive committee. “Democracy did take its course, but with cognisance of comrades who can play a role in strengthening our organisation in the region. So comrades were accommodated by branches.”
Johannesburg party secretary Dada Morero said the region had also accommodated all except three of those who had contested leadership positions on its committee.
“It was important that we don’t reduce [the] conference to infighting, but have it be about contestation that is peaceful,” Morero said. “Even the comrades who were contesting positions should not, even after [the] conference, find themselves becoming enemies, and that is the message we are trying to drive.”
The ANC’s Tshwane and West Rand regions will hold their conferences this weekend, where they will choose their preferred leaders. — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo