/ 19 December 2022

‘Detached’ Ramaphosa made eleventh hour attempt to thwart Mashatile deputy presidency

Ramaphosa Anc Conference Delwyn 3
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G

President Cyril Ramaphosa made a last ditch attempt on Sunday to ice out deputy president front runner Paul Mashatile, by asking Ronald Lamola and Oscar Mabuyane to withdraw from contesting against each other at the ANC elective conference, being held at Nasrec. 

The results of the conference are expected to be released on Monday.

The Mail & Guardian has reliably learnt that the attempt by the outgoing ANC president to get the two party leaders to abandon their campaigns was, however, fruitless.

The two leaders are being pitted against each other as Ramaphosa’s running mates in the critical post of ANC deputy president. 

Insiders with intimate knowledge of the events said that this was the first time that Ramaphosa had sought to stamp his authority on the deadlock within his camp.

Ramaphosa first called Lamola in the early hours of Sunday morning asking him to withdraw his nomination. 

Lamola is alleged to have refused, with the insider adding that the minister of justice said that he was prepared for any consequence resulting from the refusal. 

“He told the president that he could not withdraw on principle. He was making the argument that the ANC must have a succession plan and that he was even willing to face a consequence that could end his cabinet post for this principle,” the insider said. 

Another ANC insider said that the Mpumalanga ANC provincial secretary, Muzi Chirwa, had asked Ramaphosa to intervene after the provincial leaders failed to convince Lamola to withdraw. 

Having failed to convince Lamola to withdraw, Ramaphosa called Mabuyane, making the same request, the insider said. 

The insider said that while Mabuyane was willing to accede to Ramaphosa’s request, he also made known his disappointment with how the president had been absent for the entirety of the negotiations and campaigns. 

“Mabuyane said that he would only stand aside if the president convinced the Eastern Cape of this and he told him to call the provincial leadership,” the insider said. 

Ramaphosa is said to have called Eastern Cape deputy chairperson Mlungisi Mvoko, as well as Mabuyane lobbyists Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and Princess Faku, who all declined the request.  

“He spoke to the deputy chair of the Eastern Cape and the others and they didn’t agree. They were all asking, ‘Where were you all this time when the ANC leadership needed his guidance?’. They were firm that it was too late to make this change and the Eastern Cape was tired of supporting people who did not support them,” one ANC leader said. 

The insider said Ramaphosa told the three Easten Cape heavyweights that his faction’s deadlock over the deputy president position would result in Mashatile taking office at the Union Buildings. 

“He raised concerns of a vacuum that may be caused in the province if Mabuyane is elected deputy president. He said Mabuyane was overseeing a very important government programme and there are catalytic projects that are gaining momentum in the province,” the insider said. 

A high ranking national executive committee member said that this was “not a very convincing argument” for the provincial leaders, who all felt that the Eastern Cape had been sidelined during the Ramaphosa renewal campaign “when the province had been an anchor for the president”. 

The leader said there was grave concern about the deputy president position and the deadlock within the Ramaphosa camp. 

“He called Mabuyane back and he said that he had spoken to these leaders and they refused, and he had changed his mind.” 

The M&G understands that on Sunday afternoon, Lamola approached former president Kgalema Motlanthe with an intention to withdraw, however the now electoral committee chair said that it was too late as the ballot papers had been printed. 

Ramaphosa has been losing favour with his key allies over the past few days owing to his “detached nature” and lack of involvement in the campaigns of his allies. 

One Limpopo delegate who spoke to the M&G at Nasrec during commissions said that they had not heard or seen Ramaphosa during head counts. 

“In 2017 [Ramaphosa] came to us and he addressed us as members and delegates who supported him. Now we only get to hear from those who work with him. We don’t know his view.  I will still vote for him because I believe in him but I am disappointed,” the delegate said. 

Lamola was endorsed by the Mpumalanga provincial executive committee as their preferred candidate for ANC deputy president, while Mabuyane received a nod from his Eastern Cape province, of which he is party chairperson. 

The Mpumalanga provincial leaders and their Eastern Cape counterparts then initiated a dialogue to discuss party positions. The Eastern Cape lobby group attempted to negotiate with KwaZulu-Natal, but this collapsed.

Oscar Mabuyane refused to comment while Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, could not be reached for comment.