Mabuza rival in Mpumalanga supports his second-term ambition

A once fierce detractor of Deputy President David Mabuza, Peter Nyoni who is now contesting the position of Mpumalanga provincial chair, believes that the former should be afforded a second term. 

Nyoni has thrown his name in the ring in what is anticipated to be a bruising battle for the Mpumalanga leadership. 

The province was left rudderless by Mabuza in 2017 when he ascended to the number two position in the ANC. 

The once second-most-powerful province in the ANC deteriorated as those left in the wake of a Mabuza reign wrestled for power. Factions within the provincial executive committee (PEC) led to it sinking from its kingmaker status after it helped to usher in  President Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency. 

“We are what we are because of Mabuza. His leadership style has sharpened us. All the complex journeys that we travelled in the province have made us better than we were yesterday — we owe him a lot. He has done some good, some not so good — but our responsibility is to improve on that,” Nyoni said.

Nyoni, who was suspended and cast aside by the Mabuza leadership when he challenged his authority in 2015, has also thrown his weight behind Ramaphosa. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian last week, the former PEC member, now deputy director general in the office of Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, said he hopes that the incumbent president and his deputy remain in their post. 

Expressing affection for Ramaphosa, Nyoni said that he believed that although the ANC performed poorly in the recent local government elections, it was Ramaphosa’s popularity that helped them achieve a 47.9% result nationally. “I like this president because he is not a president that is emotional: he is systematic in his way of doing things; a person of integrity and character,” Nyoni said.

Some ANC insiders in the province have previously told the M&G that Ramaphosa’s second term will most likely be supported by all four factions, with some saying that this will also be contingent on Ramaphosa bringing back Mabuza as his running mate. 

A second term for Mabuza?

One ANC insider added that Mabuza was beginning to woo factions in an effort to consolidate support for a second term. Mabuza was the first member of the top six to publicly announce that he would avail himself for a second term. 

“We cannot say we cannot give him a second term as if all the problems that the ANC at the level of the province and nationally are attributed to him, no. I think dealing with matters the other way around will be more personal than organisational,” Nyoni said. 

The deputy director general, who has been lauded for his performance as a senior government official in both the provincial co-operative governance department and the premier’s office, believes that his experience in both structures would make him an ideal candidate for ANC Mpumalanga chair. 

“No doubt I can make a meaningful contribution if I can also be part of that structure, whether as chairperson, or any other position in the structure, because I strongly believe you don’t need a title in order to lead — you can even lead from behind,” he said. 

With the provincial conference scheduled for February, Nyoni will be going up against Mpumalanga ANC secretary Lucky Ndinisa, acting chair Mandla Ndlovu and Mtsweni-Tsipane. 

Some party insiders say that Ndlovu as the incumbent with the backing of acting secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali — a known ally of suspended secretary general Ace Magashule — is leading the race. 

PEC’s ‘poverty of ideas’

On Sunday, a defiant Nyoni held a media briefing calling for the national executive committee to disband the provincial leadership and install a provincial task team to take the party to its elective conference. 

Nyoni has, in the past, publicly criticised the PEC, led by Ndlovu, as factional. 

“The serious poverty of ideas, lack of decisive leadership by the PEC and the factional manner in which the elections campaign was conducted, characterised by the manipulation of the lists processes, poor co-ordination of the election campaign [and the] inability to deploy experienced comrades to convince the electorate to vote for the ANC, contributed to the deeper darkness [of] a night that was already devoid of stars,” he said in a statement. “The inability of the PEC to exercise political management or oversight of municipalities so as to ensure that they are managed effectively and efficiently, contributed to the midnight.”

Accusations of branch manipulation against Mabuza and the PEC were also made by some party leaders when the province emerged as the second biggest, ahead of the Eastern Cape, shortly before the Nasrec conference. 

An investigation by the M&G in 2019 revealed the existence of cloned ANC branches and that dead members had “voted” at branch, regional and provincial meetings during the build-up to the provincial conference. The ANC dissolved and merged the parallel structures and instituted a membership audit, in the process of which the eHlanzeni and Bohlabela regions were dissolved.

Making the same claims, Nyoni said, “… that membership was not realistic”. 

Lamola in the wings?

Another Mpumalanga native and former ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola hinted at his readiness to ascend to the top six as the deputy president of the party.

In an interview with the M&G at the party’s 110th birthday celebration in Polokwane, Lamola said he would respond to the question at the right time. 

“The reality is that the ANC does need a generational mix in the top six; it does need a generational mix in the national executive committee. The moment of renewal also means renewal of leadership. We never shied away when given responsibility by the structures of the ANC, but obviously, at the right time, we will respond and we will answer that question when the moment arises, but the call for a generational mix is very important for the future stability; for the future growth and outlook of the ANC,” he said.

Nyoni agreed, adding that he would support Lamola for any position in the top six except the presidency.

“And still I want to say: he still has age on his side and is brilliant as well.”

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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