As ANC branches prepare to compile their lists of public representatives, the national executive committee (NEC) has set guidelines for the process and encouraged members to ensure president Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president David Mabuza and party chairperson Gwede Mantashe feature as the top three on the parliamentary list.
The three are the only ones in the ANC’s national executive whose positions are not permanent and qualify them for deployment to Parliament.
The decision to set guidelines for the process is believed to have been sparked by concerns that factional battles fuelled in the lead-up to the ANC’s 2017 elective conference might continue to play themselves out in the list nominations process.
Already provinces that feel slighted by Mabuza’s sudden withdrawal of support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the succession race have threatened not to nominate him.
This would prove embarrassing for Mabuza as it would result in someone else executing the duties of deputy president of the country.
A member of the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) said during a special sitting of the NEC last week that party leaders agreed on the need to manage parts of the nominations process to ensure unity ahead of elections. “All of us will now have a common programme. We can’t just go to this process blindly as if we don’t understand the need to unite the organisation and how it must work. So that’s why it’s important for the NEC to come into the space.”
The NEC did not find it undemocratic to suggest to branches the order in which they should be nominating their preferred candidates. The NWC member said the democratic process had taken place at the national conference last year when branches elected their preferred top six leaders and the NEC. “If we were undemocratic, we would not take these guidelines to BGMs [branch general meetings]. We’re not instructing them; we are saying they are encouraged to do so. Lobbying always takes place in this process. So there is nothing wrong with us lobbying and encouraging [members to nominate certain leaders]. The membership must rally behind the people who are the face of the organisation — the national officials.”
Draft versions of parliamentary lists have already been circulated in which Mabuza appears towards the bottom. But the NWC member said the lists were not an accurate representation of what was happening because very few branch general meetings, at which party members would compile their list of nominees, had been held.
According to party insiders, lobbying for Mabuza’s number two spot has already begun, with some members pushing for either National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete or International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Being nominated in this position could result in either of the two serving as of deputy president of the country and could leave Mabuza with only his position as deputy
president of the ANC.
At the Nasrec conference last year, Mbete decided at the last minute to withdraw her presidential candidacy and throw her weight behind Ramaphosa, a move believed to have increased his margin of success.
The NWC member, who is also close to Ramaphosa, confirmed that informal lobbying was taking place for Mabuza’s position but that Ramaphosa had not agreed to anything. “Yes, we have heard people talking about it. But there is no such agreement. The president has not agreed and has not engaged on that matter. He can only be able to engage on that thing after the elections.”
Added to the need to set guidelines for the list process is a demand by the South African Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation Cosatu that a quarter of the nominated candidates must be direct representatives of alliance partners.
The two organisations will hold an alliance council meeting later this month at which they are expected to thrash out how a reconfigured structure would function. The SACP and Cosatu have demanded that the alliance be the centre of power and not the ANC.
Although the ANC has agreed that the alliance should take collective decisions on issues such as proposed policies, it is understood to be less enthusiastic about the suggestion to relinquish its place as the centre of power.
“Obviously the ANC believes it must continue to be the centre of the alliance and issues of common interest can be looked at. Members of the alliance can be represented in various decision-making forums of the ANC,” the NWC member said.
“But whoever is deployed must remain a deployee of the ANC. Because, for example, if we are going to give Cosatu as a party some kind of independence [and allow] their people who come into the ANC account to them, it means they might end up also having their own chief whips [in Parliament].
“How would we manage that? That’s why there must be one centre of accountability, which is the ANC,” the NWC member added.
But the SACP’s national spokesperson, Alex Mashilo, said that, as far as the party was concerned, the ANC had shown a commitment to reconfiguration.
He said the ANC had yet to inform the SACP of any decision on the reconfiguration of the alliance, which would be discussed again at the alliance political council meeting in two weeks’ time.
“The reconfiguration of the alliance is not dependent on the generosity or the behaviour of any single alliance partner. It is a matter of necessity to adapt to changing conditions and move with the times,” Mashilo said.
“We have met as the alliance and agreed to a process. None of the partners has said they are reneging from the process.”