/ 13 December 2022

It’s Zweli Mkhize vs Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC conference

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Expelled ANC member Carl Niehaus will launch his Radical Economic Transformation (RET) Movement — which might eventually become a political party and contest elections — by the end of the month. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)


There are only three days

to go until the ANC’s 55th elective conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg kicks off — last-minute court interdicts, protests and extended haggling during the delegate accreditation process permitting.

The Wensenists, the Renewables and the rest of us are finally getting ready to rumble — politically and not physically, one hopes  — on the conference floor come Friday, ending a campaign that effectively started the day Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president of the ANC in 2017.

One hopes that the conference does turn out to be a festival of ideas, to borrow a phrase from the comrades in the Kingdom, as opposed to one of chairs, as has been suggested by outgoing national executive committee member Bathabile Dlamini in response to news that she had been barred from standing.

As the clock runs down on the five years that suspended secretary general Ace Magashule told the comrades about back in January 2018, we are — as the campaign song being sung by Ramaphosa’s supporters for the second conference in a row, goes — well and truly ready.

As the rest of the nation begins to December in earnest, the comrades are about to get to work for real to ensure that it is their bread — and not that of their counterparts in the opposing faction — that is buttered on both sides for the next half a decade.

The large-scale horse trading over the top six posts by the ANC provinces is pretty much done, with the bulk of them sticking with the positions they had adopted during the branch general meetings held to elect delegates and name candidates.

Now the focus shifts to keeping delegations together and ensuring that they deliver on the mandates they received from their branches — and to the battle over who actually gets to participate in the conference, which will take place during both accreditation and the adoption of credentials when the conference starts.

It’s a delicate process — and, by the ANC’s own admission, one that has been driven by the friends of the conference and their bags of loot in the boot since Polokwane in 2007, when eThekwini’s John Mchunu turned brown-enveloping into an art form — a science, actually.

Word has it that the craftier comrades have mastered the art of collecting a little something for the festive from both factions — in addition to fleecing the chokers who worked the provinces but failed to make the top six ballot last month. Not a bad stocking filler for when they get home next week.

As the conference gets closer, the  Don’t Come Mondays are flying with increasing intensity, courtesy of the ANC’s electoral commission, chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe and Ralph Mgijima, his counterpart on the former liberation movement’s disciplinary committee.

Motlanthe — like Mgijima — has gone full John Wick in the last days before the long awaited inkomfa, at which the comrades will decide which faction will run the party for the next five years — and whether or not Ramaphosa gets a second term.

The two have been smashing out letters of suspension, disbarment and expulsion with great vigour — one assumes they are playing catch up for five years of sleeping on the job  — and the way things are going there could be more cops and media types at Nasrec on Friday than voting delegates and qualifying candidates for the NEC.

It’s no surprise that Carl Niehaus has ended up getting himself booted out of the ANC ahead of the conference.

Outside Delegate Number One has been pushing his luck for some time now — since the 1990s, to be honest — so the expulsion letter he got for bringing the ANC into disrepute was a pretty predictable — and well earned — outcome.

I don’t see it stopping Carlito turning up at the Nasrec gate with a placard on Friday and causing a scene though.

My money is on him not getting past the Sasol Garage — where the security perimeter for the conference begins — for the duration of the conference and on Mpangazitha, as he calls himself,  collecting a few hot ones from ANC security — or the cops — at some point in the weekend for his efforts.

I’m happy that both Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize — the main presidential contenders at this stage — look set to make it past the ANC integrity commission and on the actual ballot.

With all the effort — and hot air — that’s gone into building up to a showdown between Ramaphosa and Mkhize — Phala Phala vs Digital Vibes — the Buffalo vs the Undertaker — anything less  would have felt like a bit of a let down — a robbery, actually.

We are ready.