/ 25 November 2022

For the ANC, the lines are clearly drawn

Divide and conquer: There has been little sign of renewal and unity in the ANC if its elections are anything to go by. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)


There are 22 days to go until the ANC’s elective conference and the lines are — to borrow a term used by the late party president Oliver Tambo in his statement commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising of 1976 — clearly drawn.

The lines are clearly drawn not between the national liberation movement and the apartheid state — as they were in June 1986, when Tambo issued the statement — but between the comrades in the ANC.

It’s been like that every five years since 2007. Comrade versus comrade each time a conference comes around. Then it’s back to business until the next election.

This time around though, the factions in the party have been in a pretty much permanent state of mobilisation since the last conference, with 2017’s unfinished business waiting to be concluded.

There has been an extra edge — an additional sense of desperation — about the battle ahead of December, as if five years of “unity” deepened the divisions, rather than healing the wounds inflicted at Nasrec, increasing the desire for payback, revenge.

Not what Tambo intended.

President Cyri Ramaphosa must be well pleased with the outcome of the nominations — for the presidency at least — given the failure of Zweli Mkhize’s lobbyists to carry branches outside KwaZulu-Natal in any great numbers.

Not so much his running mate for deputy, Senzo Mchunu, who appears to be having a bad conference for the second time in a row.

Kevlar Cyril appeared to be having fun abroad while the ANC’s electoral commission was delivering the outcomes for the top six nominations. 

The head of state has wrapped up what appears to be a successful visit to the United Kingdom and is now home with all manner of trade pledges such as money for green hydrogen — and a fully charged iPad.

It’s nice that Ramaphosa got to stay in London long enough to charge all his devices — unlike the last time.

It would have been nicer still if he had come home with the Cullinan diamond in his presidential pocket, along with those good wishes from Charles III, but one works with what one has.

Word on the street has it that the Brits promised Ramaphosa a $5 billion grant for a green hydrogen plant to stop him popping over with a 500-person entourage every couple of months to charge their personal electronic devices under pretence of official business.

With UK energy prices hitting the roof, Rishi Sunak’s team figured that it was way cheaper to give Ramaphosa the $5 billion than to keep on hosting him and his hangers-on every couple of months for another five years.

One hopes that the $5 billion is transferred, preferably in tranches, as the project progresses, rather than handed over in cash, which will remove any temptation to mattress a portion of it as a finder’s fee on the part of our president, now that he’s given up his Phala Phala side hustle.

Word on the street also has it that the motivation of the department of correctional services in challenging the supreme court of appeal decision overturning his predecessor, Jacob Zuma’s, medical parole is pretty similar.

Word has it that the department doesn’t want Zuma, just like the branches of the ANC — three out of three-and-a-half-thousand of them answered his call to nominate him for December — and the rest of us, and have gone to court to make sure the old man stays at home and continues to make TikTok videos.

The online sabre-rattlers have been at it since the court ruled against Zuma, apparently with a mind to kicking off a pre-Christmas looting session down here in the kingdom should Nxamalala be forced to spend the festive season in the Estcourt prison.

The department’s appeal shuts them down — at least until next year — along with Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen’s attempt to force the department to lock Zuma up by Friday.

Fair enough.

I’d rather not spend Christmas queueing for bread.

Steenhuisen looked as welcome as Ramaphosa and Zuma when he turned up — unannounced — at the Kusile power station with the TV cameras in tow, demanding to be let in to inspect the wiring.

Steenhuisen, like the rest of us, knew that he would not be admitted to a national key point without getting prior clearance.

The Petulant One looked a bit silly standing outside the power station — a bit like Carl Niehaus at an ANC conference, and with about as much chance of actually tasting power.

Then again, John is running for a second term as leader of the Democratic Alliance next April and camera time is camera time.