/ 16 October 2022

Lindiwe Sisulu confident of women’s support in ANC presidential race

Lindiwe Sisulu 3867 Dv Easy Resize.com
Lindiwe Sisulu (2004-09; 2014-18 and 2019-21). (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Tourism minister and ANC presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu believes that the women’s league task team will support her ambition to lead the ruling party at the December elective conference. 

In an interview with journalists on Friday evening, Sisulu said she had received a report that the task team had endorsed her for the position of ANC party president. 

Sisulu rubbished suggestions that she was on the back foot in the presidential race, arguing that women in the ANC are standing behind her. 

“We have timed ourselves to be there at the right time and this is the right time now for us to say we are standing. In the same way, as we stood in 2017, we’re standing very much on principle, because we think that it is time that we gave way to women. We have had men running this country and messing it up, or whatever it is made. Some may have had successes, but I think that it is time for women,” Sisulu said.

“Last week, we had a meeting where we got results of the outcome of the (ANC women’s league) task team, and they endorsed women, and they just said this is what we’re going to do. We were very chuffed with that. Somewhere, somehow these people got their heads on the right side of the fence and we’re very happy about that.”

The Mail & Guardian reported last week that a meeting of the ANC’s most powerful women resolved to support Sisulu for a position in the party’s presidency ahead of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

At the ruling party’s 2017 Nasrec conference, the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) favoured Dlamini Zuma over Sisulu, who had also campaigned for the position but defected to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 faction at the 11th hour.

Sisulu was one of the first ANC leaders to raise her hand to contest Ramaphosa for the ANC’s top position. Despite this, she has not received an endorsement from the male-dominated provincial executive committees (PECs) across the country.

With a vote of confidence from the ANC’s most powerful women and their constituencies, Sisulu or Dlamini Zuma could level the playing field with Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize, who was endorsed by the KwaZulu-Natal PEC.

“We believe that when we have women in positions of authority, there is a certain sensitivity about them, that makes them much better leaders. That I will not withdraw or swallow my words on it. They do become better leaders. I have experienced women presidents in the world and when they are women, it is amazing,” Sisulu said.

In March, the M&G reported that the ANCWL appeared to have found no inspiration to actively campaign for candidates seeking office. This was before it was disbanded for failing to go to its conference.

An organisational report, presented by then league president Bathabile Dlamini during a national working committee meeting, said there was general fatigue among members and the politics of patronage had neutralised and dampened women’s spirit. She added that ANC leaders often imposed on women leaders that favoured them, as an avenue towards getting women’s vote.

Dlamini also said there was also concern that women in cabinet positions were not driving the agenda for women.

The women’s league task team, which is predominantly pro-Ramaphosa, has opted to focus on claiming the entire ANC secretary general’s office for women.

Nomvula Mokonyane, Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule and Gwen Ramokgopa are likely to benefit from the ANCWL’s support as they have been touted for the ANC secretary general and deputy secretary general positions.

Part of the challenge faced by women in the ANC was the use of money during campaigns, Sisulu said. The high-ranking party leader said that the ANC needed to change its culture which allowed for “people’s ideas can be bought”.

Sisulu said the ANC needed to have electoral reforms similar to Mozambique’s Frelimo party which controls the election of presidential hopefuls rather than allowing them to campaign as individuals. She said this would take away the influence of money and bring out the real value of the contender.

In what could be perceived as a progressive move towards electoral change in the party, the electoral committee headed by former president Kgalema Motlanthe introduced new guidelines and rules for those contesting for position. Among these, the committee said it would monitor financial books of individual campaigns to eliminate vote-buying.

In an attempt to rid itself of slate politics, the committee also stated that national executive committee (NEC) candidates may not campaign as an organised slate or list that tries to get votes for a predetermined group of NEC members or officials.

It added that all campaigning should focus on the capacity and track record of each candidate.

While Sisulu said she believed the electoral committee was the right vehicle to introduce these changes, she was sceptical that it would achieve its goals during the election season. 

“By the time the electoral committee started working, the horse had bolted … I value the way that Mozambique runs its elections. They don’t allow individuals to stand and go and say, I’m available.

“If this electoral committee that is with the ANC now can graduate to the level where Frelimo is, we would be in a much better position. Imagine all the money that would come to the ANC instead of going to branches for whatever meetings that they have,” she said, adding that she had raised her concerns with the party for over a decade. 

“I think that when people are stuck in a particular mode of producing presidents, they will continue until something else comes. I’m hoping that perhaps now the electoral committee might step up. 

“They started late and they’ve been looking at ways of making sure that we have a better election every time. If they step up and take over completely, imagine how much money would be coming into the ANC — all this money that is spent by all these candidates. If they gave it to the ANC, it would improve our productivity as the ANC, not as an individual, as the ANC.”