Lamola launches his campaign to become ANC deputy president in Mabuza’s stronghold

Ronald Lamola has launched his campaign for ANC deputy president with an endorsement from the leagues in his home province of Mpumalanga. 

Lamola, 38, who is the minister of justice and correctional services and a staunch ally of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, has been touted as a possible contender for the position while some are calling for him to replace Gwede Mantashe as chairperson of the party. 

Lamola first hinted to the Mail & Guardian that he would stand for the position during the ANC’s birthday celebrations in Limpopo.

Speaking at the Walter Sisulu memorial lecture hosted by the Ehlanzeni region this weekend, Lamola poured cold water on claims from some in the ANC that he was still too young to lead. He cited the late Walter Sisulu, who became the party’s secretary general at the age of 37, when the ANC looked to replace a leadership then described as passive and old. 

“Today, if a 37-year-old stood up to assert a new vision and a new culture in the ANC, people say ‘wait your turn’, or ‘you are too young’. The reality is that historically the ANC became highly effective when young people like Walter Sisulu, Lilian Ngoyi and [Oliver]  Tambo took the responsibility of leading this organisation after it had become moribund,” Lamola said.

Lamola, a former deputy president of the ANC youth league, is said to have convinced a few leaders in the Ramaphosa faction that he is the man for the job. He will need the might of Mpumalanga against Paul Mashatile, who also received an endorsement from delegates at the Limpopo conference this past weekend. 

Lamola’s choice of venue for his public bid for deputy president signalled a bid to elbow out current deputy president David Mabuza as a contender for the post in the Ramaphosa slate. 

Ehlanzeni was where Mabuza’s close ally, Ngrayi Ngwenya, announced that the current deputy president would contest the number one position in December. 

The region is historically a stronghold of Mabuza, who has remained silent about his prospects of returning to his position as ANC deputy president or even contesting the party presidency, previously telling the Mail & Guardian that “it is the branches that choose leaders and not the individual leaders themselves”.

Once the second most powerful province in the ANC, Mpumalanga’s status deteriorated when those left behind in the wake of Mabuza’s reign jostled for power. Factionalism in the provincial executive committee led to it sinking from its kingmaker status after it had helped to usher in Ramaphosa’s presidency.

Newly-elected Mpumalanga chairperson Mandla Ndlovu is said to favour Lamola. 

Lamola is also closely linked to Babalo Madikizela in the Eastern Cape, a man capable of convincing strong regions in that province to choose Lamola. The Eastern Cape is fractured between those lobbying for Oscar Mabuyane to emerge in the ANC top six, while  Madikizela has tied himself to Mashatile. There is also a section looking at Phumulo Masualle as a possible contender.

Lamola is also expected to have the backing of the ANC Youth League, depending on who emerges victorious when it goes to its own elective conference. 

Lamola said he would leave the task of picking its preferred candidate to the league and that the ANC itself should lobby for progressive leadership and influence its structures to ensure a generational transition.

“We need a careful transition toward a new generation of leaders and thinking. A failure to transition will delay the necessary shift that we have to make to realise our mission,” he said.

“Our inability to be deliberate in the manner in which we pass the baton from one era to another distracts us from concerning ourselves with the problems of society. Instead of us moving steadily towards the promised land, we may very well become the reason why the promised land eludes all of us.

“We need a movement that is organisationally strong in terms of the membership that it attracts into its ranks. In the first conference held in South Africa after the unbanning of the ANC, comrade Sisulu was elected as the deputy president. This was in recognition of his leadership that stood the test of time.”

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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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