South Africa

Limpopo ANC’s jumpstart opens a national can of worms

By Greg Nicolson 19 September 2012

Limpopo just couldn’t wait to get stuck into President Zuma. The provincial ANC earned Gwede Mantashe's wrath when it released its nominations for Mangaung, choosing Kgalema Motlanthe as president and Tokyo Sexwale as deputy. No surprise there – but only time will tell if other provinces agree with its choice of the opposing top six. By GREG NICOLSON.

Politics can be a lot like a match of schoolyard football, where lunchtimes are dominated by grudges and friendships. Instead of lining the students up and picking teams, each captain calling out the name of the most talented player until only those who don’t know the rules are left, alliances are formed on friendships – who you owe and who will help you when a fight starts after the bell rings.

Limpopo’s ANC picked a top six of friends who might be able to help the beleaguered provincial executive committee. In a statement on Monday night, spokesman Makonde Mathivha announced the party wanted Motlanthe for president, Tokyo Sexwale for deputy president, Fikile Mbalula for secretary general, Thandi Modise for deputy secretary general, Mathews Phosa for treasurer general and Thenjiwe Mtintso as national chairperson.

Motlanthe’s looking like the only realistic candidate for the top job, but Limpopo has the most to gain from Sexwale and Mbalula. Although its playmaker Julius Malema has denied receiving funds from Sexwale, Tokyo’s rumoured to have played big sponsor, doling out cash so the firebrand could start the anti-Zuma campaign early. He favoured a political solution to the disciplining of the ANCYL members, and has long been a figure in the movement to change leadership at Mangaung. 

Fikile Mbalula was always going to be nominated by the province as secretary general. The former youth league leader is aligned to Malema and premier Cassel Mathale’s faction of the province, and has long been their automatic candidate to replace current secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who has not been appreciated by the ANCYL, to say the least.

The roles of Mathews Phosa and Thandi Modise have been harder to interpret in the lead-up to Mangaung, but both recently looked as though they were likely to join a slate against President Zuma. Phosa and Modise both supported finding a political solution to Malema’s disciplinary case, and the treasurer general has shown his general despondency with the president more than once.

Limpopo’s choice for national chairwoman is Thenjiwe Mtintso, a veteran comrade with strong insider credentials, currently serving as South Africa’s ambassador to Italy. The PEC wants her to replace Baleka Mbete.

A member of the ANC’s national executive committee recently told Sunday Times the faction working against Zuma wanted representatives from across the key provinces. “The idea is to make this a national campaign and not have no-go areas. Even in places where Zuma is strong, we will go there. We won’t repeat the mistake of Thabo [Mbeki’s lobbyists] who focused on certain provinces… We know that they are also working in our areas.”

The proposed list is diverse. Phosa hails from Mpumalanga, Modise is premier of North West, Mbalula is from the Free State. Motlanthe, Sexwale and Mtintso are from Gauteng. While some of Zuma’s opposition reportedly wanted to keep Mantashe on board as secretary general to help win the Eastern Cape vote, Sexwale has been campaigning in the region, helping shift support.

Not surprisingly, Limpopo’s ticket is missing anyone from Zuma’s home province. Senzo Mchuno had been touted as a possible ally of the change coalition and could have fractured KwaZulu-Natal’s support for the incumbent. That role might be up to former eThekwini chair Bheki Cele, who has an axe to grind and has reportedly been busy lobbying KZN branches.

All of that will be for nought, however, if Motlanthe doesn’t accept nomination. With only days to go before the process officially starts, his poker face hasn’t changed. At first he intimated he would only stand if unopposed. Then he said he would only accept nomination if he ran without a slate, which is almost impossible, but is a disciplined comment, and a sign he doesn’t want to be in anyone’s debt. 

While Motlanthe seems to be biding his time, Zuma’s chances are looking stronger this week as Cosatu re-elected its leaders unopposed. The trade union conference has reflected the SACP meet where, instead of a fiery showdown, delegates have mutely accepted more of the same.

By announcing nominations early, the Limpopo PEC signals two things. One: it can’t follow the rules of just about anything. Two: it’s tired of waiting for Motlanthe to act. The early nomination puts pressure on Motlanthe to accept come October, and while Zuma is on top at the Cosatu conference, it signals to all swaying ANC voters that he will be challenged at Mangaung.

Those swaying voters probably won’t be from Limpopo. It’s not a homogenous bloc, but the majority of its branches are likely to vote against Zuma. Mangaung will be decided in the other provinces, where the biggest numbers are still up for grabs. Limpopo’s surely hoping to send a message that Mangaung will be a lot more like the fighting display we saw at the ANC policy conference then the unopposed elections at Cosatu. 

The question is: is Limpopo’s list the formation agreed on by Zuma’s opposition across the country, or has it jumped the gun and nominated its buddies out of its own initiative? Gauteng has looked determined to get Paul Mashatile into the top six, and a number of those opposing Zuma are said to want to retain Mantashe to win the Eastern Cape vote.

A united challenge would greatly help the “anyone but Zuma” campaign, but to get a true indication of where things are going, we’ll have to wait at least 12 more days until the election process officially begins. DM

Read more:

  • National Coalition vs. Change Coalition: Mangaung’s high rollers named in Daily Maverick 

Photo: Limpopo ANC’s leader, and premier, Kassel Mathale. (Greg Nicolson)


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