South Africa

African National Congress: Meet the new Top Six

By NewsFire 18 December 2012

In an another slate-controlled contest, Jacob Zuma and his allies were elected in a landslide to lead South Africa's ruling party for another six years. By KHADIJA PATEL and SIPHO HLONGWANE / NewsFire.

President: Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma has been re-elected as ANC president, receiving 2983 votes to Kgalema Motlanthe’s 991 votes.

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is the ANC’s 12th president and the fourth to become the president of South Africa. He took charge of the country in 2009 after Thabo Mbeki was ousted by the party national executive committee in 2008.

Born in 1942, Zuma joined the ANC in 1959 and served in Umkhonto we Sizwe before being arrested for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government. He was jailed on Robben Island for 10 years, before being released and then joining other party exiles in Swaziland and Mozambique in 1975. He rose through the party ranks before becoming chief of intelligence just before the party was unbanned in 1990.

He briefly served on the politburo of the South African Communist Party.

Since 2005, Zuma has become embroiled in a series of legal challenges, which culminated in his acquittal on rape charges in 2006, and the still controversial dropping of hundreds of charges related to the arms deal in 2008. This paved the way for him to become state president.

Zuma has had difficulty with his public image. In 2008, he sued cartoonist Zapiro for R4 million in damages to his reputation and R1 million for injury to his dignity after the Mail & Guardian published a cartoon showing him about to rape Lady Justice. The case has since been dropped.

Deputy President: Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa will be the ANC’s new deputy president after he saw off challenges from Mathews Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale. He received 3018 votes to Phosa’s 470 votes and Sexwale’s 463 votes.

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (born 17 November 1952) is a lawyer, businessman, former anti-apartheid activist and trade union leader. He rose to prominence in the National Union of Mineworkers, which he built to be the biggest and most powerful union in the country.

In 1991 he became the secretary-general of the ANC and the party’s chief negotiator in the talks which ended apartheid. He earned a reputation as a tenacious negotiator. Named by Nelson Mandela as his successor before the 1997 ANC conference, he was eventually beaten to the top job by Thabo Mbeki. After that, he left active politics (while remaining a member of the ANC’s national executive committee) for business, where he enjoyed huge success.

Ramaphosa’s return to power came after the fallout between Zuma and deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe. Ramaphosa had positioned himself as the go-to candidate in for Zuma in this scenario.

In August 2012, Ramaphosa suffered some damage to his reputation after it was revealed that he was a shareholder in Lonmin, the platinum mining company where the Marikana massacre happened. However, the incident has not appeared to tarnish his political reputation. 

Despite his political profile and involvement in more than several organisations, he is a notoriously private person. The retired judge Johann Kriegler once said of him: “Have you ever tried getting hold of Cyril? Anyone who knows him will tell you it’s next to impossible.”

National Chair: Baleka Mbete

The re-elected chairperson of the African National Congress, Baleka Mbete hails from the Clermont township in Durban.

As a student Mbete enrolled at the Eshowe Training College but was later expelled for challenging the college authorities. She completed her studies at the Lovedale Teacher Training College in Alice and went on to teach in Durban. There, she became active in Black Consciousness-affiliated organisations and then established contact with the ANC’s underground structures. She fled to Swaziland in May 1976 to join the ANC. On her return to South Africa in 1990, she was elected secretary-general of the ANC Women’s League.

She was served as deputy president of South Africa when Kgalema Motlanthe took over from former president Mbeki in 2008. She also served as the Speaker of the National Assembly between 2004 and 2008. Her first stint as party chairperson began in 2007 in Polokwane and in January this year, was appointed to the African Union’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Panel of Eminent Persons.

In October, Mbete yesterday former president Thabo Mbeki’s criticism of the party’s leaders, arguing that robust debates within the ruling party did not constitute a crisis. “It is just something that is the culture of the ANC and so it does not come as a surprise,” he said.

Secretary General: Gwede Mantashe

Gwede Mantashe remains as secretary general of the ANC after being re-elected as secretary general of the ANC at the 53rd elective conference in Mangaung. His only rival for the position, Fikile Mbalula, received 901 votes compared to Mantashe’s 3058 votes.

Gwede Mantashe has been the secretary-general of the ANC since the 52nd national conference in Polokwane in 2007. He was born in the Eastern Cape in 1955 and rose to political prominence in the trade union movement.  Like Ramaphosa and Kgalema Motlanthe before him, he was the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, the country’s largest trade union.

Mantashe was one of the most prominent actors in the movement to bring Zuma to power and has remained his most trusted lieutenant within the party. As such, he was instrumental in the downfall of the former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and the stopping of the movement since to oust Zuma.

Known for being a tough disciplinarian and a stickler for rules, he can be pedantic to the point of alienating allies, as shown by the cooling of relations between himself and the trade union federation Cosatu. As the chairman of the South African Communist Party till 2012, he was the alliance left’s popular choice for top ANC leadership. However, since he became the secretary-general of the ruling party, he has scuffled frequently with Cosatu in his defence of Zuma and the party.

Deputy Secretary General: Jessie Duarte

The newly elected Deputy Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC), Yasmin “Jessie” Duarte, born in 1953, is an ANC stalwart, a prominent anti-apartheid activist and a sworn nemesis of the media. She has served as ANC spokesperson between and later as chief executive in the presidency. In both positions she became well known for her fiery temper and scathing attacks on journalists.

In the run-up to the 2009 elections Duarte attacked BBC reporter John Humphreys, who questioned the ANC’s delivery record, calling him a “colonialist” and saying she would “not allow [him] to determine the course of the agenda for the South African people”. On another occasion she railed against Sunday Times journalist,  Philani Nombembe of insinuating that President Jacob Zuma could not read after he questioned her about the ANC’s online correspondence with voters.

Her chequered relationship with the media aside, Duarte fought hard against Apartheid. She was detained without trial in 1988, released and then placed under restriction orders until the State of Emergency was lifted in 1990. She has also served in various positions in government – as a special assistant to former president Nelson Mandela, an MEC for Gauteng and an ambassador to Mozambique.

National Treasurer: Zweli Mkhize

Dr Zweli Lawrence Mkhize wears many hats. The newly elected treasurer general of the ANC has also served as the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal since 2009 – an office he will now  vacate. Mkhize, a medical doctor is also the leader of Government Business in KwaZulu-Natal, Chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Chairperson of the ANC’s National Education and Health sub-committee and Chancellor of the University of Kwazulu-Natal.
Mkhize does also bring some money counting experience to his new job. He served as the provincial treasurer for the ANC between 1994 and 1997. His “struggle credentials” emanate from being forced into exile in Swaziland in 1986, where he practiced as a doctor at Mbabane Clinic before moving to Zimbabwe in 1989. He returned to South Africa in 1991.

As a member of the ANC Provincial Executive Committee and its National Executive Committee, Mkhize played a key role in brokering peace and stability in KwaZulu-Natal during political upheaval in the early nineties.

In October Mkhize argued the surge in ANC membership in Kwazulu-Natal was testimony to the popularity of ANC president Jacob Zuma. “The support that was generated by popularity of the president at national level has had a more or less similar impact across all provinces, due to his widespread appeal across different communities,” he said in a statement.

Mkhize is widely regarded as one of Zuma’s strongest allies, also condemned Frank Chikane’s book “Eight Days in September” as “outrageous” for suggesting the recall of former President Thabo Mbeki was tantamount to a coup. He said Chikane owed the ANC an apology. Fitting then, that Chikane’s book is on sale outside the University of Free State campus during the conference.  DM

All photos by Greg Marinovich. Leonie Marinovich, Greg Nicolson.

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