/ 3 May 2023

Sisisi Tolashe versus Bathabile Dlamini for ANC Women’s League president

Bathabile Dlamini
Bathabile Dlamini. File photo

The ANC Women’s League members vying for top positions have kicked off their campaigns, with those aligned to party president Cyril Ramaphosa expected to receive endorsements from provincial task teams. 

The league was disbanded more than a year ago after it was unable to convene a conference, which was exacerbated by the conviction of its then president, Bathabile Dlamini. 

Dlamini was found guilty of perjury in March 2022 for lying under oath during an inquiry about her role in the 2018 South African Social Security Agency grant payments debacle. She was the minister of social development at the time. 

Despite her conviction, Dlamini escaped the step-aside resolution through a technicality and was elected to the ANC’s national executive committee. 

Although Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian that she would wait for the nominations process to open before disclosing any intentions to be re-elected, insiders say she still has some influence in the league, adding that she has been lobbied to stand for election at the league conference, which is likely to take place later this year. 

Should Dlamini stand, she will go up against another league heavyweight, Sisisi Tolashe, who is a Ramaphosa ally. 

Tolashe has already been endorsed by her home province, the Eastern Cape. She has also received the go-ahead from Limpopo. During a women’s league event in Limpopo in April, provincial convenor Mmamedupi Teffo said Tolashe was the only one who could truly lead the women’s league in its programme of renewal.

Before the party’s elective conference in December last year, those aligned to Ramaphosa were eager to see Tolashe at Luthuli House to help the now treasurer general, Gwen Ramokgopa, with her duties. 

Ramokgopa was roped in by the Ramaphosa faction as the coordinator in the secretary general’s office in an attempt to remove Paul Mashatile, now deputy president, from the party’s engine room. 

Mashatile became acting secretary general after the death of Jessie Duarte, but some in the party believed Mashatile was using the office for his presidential ambitions. Other insiders felt that Ramokgopa needed reinforcement in the office, but this plan did not materialise. 

Another Ramaphosa ally whose name has been touted to lead the women’s league is Thembeka Mchunu. But two league leaders from KwaZulu-Natal said she would not get as much support as Tolashe. 

Mchunu, who is married to Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, suffered a humiliating loss last year when she failed to be elected chairperson of the Musa Dladla region. 

Other names doing the rounds include Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who is expected to run for deputy president. Several whatsApp groups have already been created for her campaign. 

She was cleared by parliament’s ethics committee of any wrongdoing with regard to the controversial nuclear deal following the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. 

Joemat-Pettersson is another Ramaphosa ally and is closely linked to Northern Cape chairperson Zamani Saul. Joemat-Pettersson and Saul were the brains behind a plan to rescue the Ramaphosa faction after their deputy secretary general nominee, Febe Potgieter, surprised the faction by declining nomination on the day of the elections. 

With only minutes to make a decision on who would replace Potgieter, the two rallied their allies in support of Joemat-Pettersson. 

She lost to Nomvula Mokonyane by a small margin, and was instead elected to the national working committee.  

Dlamini ally Winnie Khumalo has also kicked off her campaign to become deputy secretary general. 

Sisi Ntombela is likely to go up against Joemat-Pettersson in Dlamini’s slate, with Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe in the slate for the position of secretary general.

Ntombela lost her race for Free State chairperson against Mxolisi Dukwana. She was then axed as premier following his election.

Tikana-Gxothiwe also suffered a loss during the Eastern Cape conference last year as part of Babalo Madikizela’s slate, and was quickly axed from being Transport MEC by Oscar Mabuyane.

Pinky Kekana, another Ramaphosa ally who led the charge against Dlamini at the women’s league, has also been touted for a top position. After Dlamini’s conviction, Kekana called for her to step aside and lead by example by upholding the ANC’s constitution. Her call was met with hostility as those aligned to Dlamini in the league’s national working committee called her “opportunistic”. 

Kekana, now deputy minister in the presidency, has been touted for the position of the league’s secretary general. 

She will be going up against Lydia Moroane-Zitha, who has received an endorsement from her province, Mpumalanga. 

In a statement released in April, the women’s league task team in Mpumalanga said Moroane-Zitha was the best candidate for this position, because she leads women with distinction and has a good understanding of the league’s principles and culture.

Maqueen Letshoha-Mathale, who is the league’s task team fundraiser, is likely to be contesting for the treasurer general position.