/ 5 April 2022

Mandla Ndlovu has no ambitions to ascend to Mpumalanga premier’s office just yet

Anc Conference
The past weekend’s ANC conferences proved a major boost for Ramaphosa presidency of the party

Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane can rest assured that her job is safe, according to newly elected provincial ANC chairperson Mandla Ndlovu

Ndlovu was elected at the province’s conference this past weekend, which saw the faction dubbed “the focus group” make a clean sweep, signalling that deputy president David Mabuza may not return for a second term.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s own bid for a second term was enhanced by the election of Ndlovu, who has previously said he would support the governing party and South Africa leader when the ANC holds its national conference in December.

Ndlovu and Mtshweni-Tsipane were part of Mabuza’s circle while he was provincial chairperson but changed allegiances shortly after he was elected deputy president at the ANC’s Nasrec conference in 2017, which propelled Ramaphosa to power. 

The premier’s rise from obscurity to the provincial office was seen as having been engineered by Mabuza, but the breakdown in their relationship was evident when she fired four of his allies from her cabinet last year. The four were said to have remained loyal to Mabuza, with whom she had been in a tussle for control of the province.

Although Mtshweni-Tsipane had ambitions of becoming the provincial chairperson, she reportedly did not receive enough support from branches and opted to bow out of the race. She was, however, elected as part of the provincial executive committee (PEC). Mtshweni-Tsipane is also understood to have had a fragile alliance with Ndlovu against Mabuza.

Although Ndlovu has said he is unemployed, he has indicated he will unlikely make a play for the premier position. Ndlovu told the Mail & Guardian that the weekend conference had made no reference to the position, or any assessments on Mtshweni-Tsipane.

“It would be very strange that immediately after the conference there are people who will disrupt the term of office of the sitting premier,” he said.

Newly elected ANC Mpumalanga chairperson Mandla Ndlovu introducing President Cyril Ramaphosa in February, during a meeting with branches of the ANC in Ehlanzeni. (@ANCMPUMALANGA/Twitter)

“I was not happy when the ANC recalled the former president. Where I have got control I will not really on my own initiate ‘eight days in September’ in the province,” he said, adding that he wanted to give a warranty to all government deployees, including the premier, to do their work.

Eight Days in September is a book by Reverend Frank Chikane, detailing the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Ndlovu said he would brush up on his CV in the next few days in search of work, but stressed: “It doesn’t mean for me to get work somebody must get out. I am going to apply where there will be a vacancy and follow all the processes.”

Two other conferences were held this weekend, which could boost Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize’s ambitions for positions among the ANC’s top six officials.

KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape 

In KwaZulu-Natal, the lower South Coast held its regional conference, which saw Mkhize ally Mondli Chiliza elected as regional chairperson. Chiliza has been open about his support for Mkhize, who is expected to throw his hat in the ring for a top six position.

Those who spoke to the M&G shortly after the region announced its new leaders said it would begin to lobby support for Mkhize in the province and surrounding regions in the Eastern Cape. Some insiders said the region was unlikely to support Mkhize for ANC president, but would rather back him to “find expression in the top six”.

Chiliza’s faction — dubbed “the Taliban” — is expected to support Sihle Zikalala at the KZN provincial conference. In the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane’s strongest ally, Wongama Gela, emerged victorious at the Chris Hani regional conference. Gela has previously reaffirmed his support for Mabuyane and Ramaphosa to the M&G, arguing that the party and the government were stable under the leadership of the current provincial chairperson. 

“For the first time in a long time, you can’t talk nationally without mentioning the role of the Eastern Cape. That is partly due to the leadership of Mabuyane. That is what we appreciate as one of the achievements of the provincial executive committee. He worked with the collective, but also he has been able to rally the entire PEC because of that work,” Gela said.

There has been media speculation that Mabuyane, who is serving his first term as Eastern Cape chair, might lose his position when the province heads to its conference. This heightened when the Nelson Mandela Bay, Joe Gqabi, Alfred Nzo and Amathole regions each resolved to support his rival, Babalo Madikizela. 

Another contender who recently raised his hand for the position is Mlibo Qoboshiyane, but Gela believes Mabuyane has the numbers on his side, with buy-in from the majority of branches in all eight ANC regions in the province. 

The Chris Hani region is home to Mabuyane and will likely endorse him for a second term. With 222 delegates, the region will hold some sway in the provincial conference later in April. 

The Sarah Baartman and Dr WB Rubusana regions will hold conferences on 8 April, the former with 101 delegates and the latter will be represented by 152 delegates. In Nelson Mandela Bay 101 delegates will represent the voting bloc; there will be 88 for Joe Gqabi; 222 for Amathole and the lion’s share of 348 for OR Tambo.

Madikizela’s home region of Alfred Nzo will have 205 voting delegates. 

In total, 651 branches and 1 441 delegates have already been approved to attend the provincial conference.