South Africa

ANC Leadership Race: A Tale of Two Campaigns

By Carien Du Plessis 24 August 2017

While Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa kept busy with official duties and playing to the gallery this week, fellow presidential hopeful, former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was being praise-sung in cadre forums, where she targeted those people most likely to be voting at the ANC’s December conference. It’s a tale of two campaigns, and with a number of variables it’s not quite clear yet who’s winning. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo on Thursday set very clear goals. On December 18, he said, referring to when the ANC’s elective conference is set to take place, the ANC will have a new president.

That president will be a woman,” EWN reported him as saying on Thursday. “Not just any woman, that woman will be Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.”

The occasion was a “cadre’s forum” in Klerksdorp, by now a euphemism for an ANC presidential campaign event, where Mahumapelo introduced her as a speaker.

His support for her was to be expected, as he is a member of the so-called “Premier League” that has supported her from the beginning.

There she pushed the radical economic transformation ticket she has been campaigning on, saying white people should not be scared of it.

Radical economic transformation means we must have an economy where all must participate. I want to know why would you feel threatened by that?”

If it doesn’t happen and jobs were not created in an economy where everybody participates, “we will not be able to maintain and sustain peace, stability and harmony in the country”.

Being chased away from Marikana earlier in the week was a PR setback and an embarrassment, but it’s unlikely that she lost significant support because of it. After all, it’s not like her main rival, Ramaphosa, has access to Marikana either, and with the only politicians welcomed there being the Economic Freedom Fighter leader Julius Malema and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, there isn’t likely to be a mighty ANC delegation to the December conference from this area anyway.

The fact that Dlamini-Zuma and her campaigners, which included ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, could organise about three dozen minibuses of supporters to trail her on her three-day campaign through the province, is potentially more significant.

But Dlamini-Zuma had to regain some street cred, and adding a Malema-esque race dimension to radical economic transformation might just have done the thing, if middle class radio talk shows are anything to go by.

Her programme on Tuesday also reminded of those President Jacob Zuma used to put out in 2007 when he followed a winning campaign recipe to become ANC president. As his preferred successor, she seems to believe that the same would work for her.

First, she was down to visit traditional leaders in Brits, then she visited the family of a femicide victim in Majakaneng nearby, then it was the wreath-laying in Marikana that didn’t turn out quite so well, and after that she engaged with young women at the University of the North West in Mafikeng. In fact, even though Zuma and her have the targeting of young people in common in their campaigns, this is where her campaign differs slightly from Zuma’s – she’s perhaps seen the inside of a few more lecture halls than he did a decade ago.

While Dlamini-Zuma was talking radical economic transformation, Ramaphosa was being a responsible citizen, addressing a conference of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), one of the more enduring and credible NGOs around.

He spoke about progress in the fight against HIV/Aids, which “is an inspiring story of civil society activism and vigilance”.

Because of Zuma’s strength within the official ANC structures thus far, those fighting to loosen his grip on the party and to break down his credibility have had to rely on help from civil society organisations and from the opposition – the vote of no confidence at the beginning of the month being a case in point, as well as the anti-Zuma marches.

Ramaphosa’s address to the TAC conference was therefore a natural campaign move, except that he might have been talking to activists who no longer feel comfortable in the ANC and who might not be in the branch delegations at the December conference – someone like former Cosatu bigwig, Zwelinzima Vavi, who was also reported to have attended the TAC event, being a case in point.

Ramaphosa has been driving a strong anti-corruption campaign, but unlike Dlamini-Zuma’s clear stance on radical economic transformation, his policies are more nuanced, something that doesn’t always work well in a race like this one.

For the rest, Ramaphosa found himself preoccupied with parliamentary work this week. On Wednesday he had to respond to questions on the economy in the National Assembly – citing Zuma’s nine-point plan for recovery – and he had to defend the indefensible move of granting Zimbabwe’s Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity.

Ramaphosa seemed to struggle somewhat with that one, although by virtue of his position in the government that took the decision on Mugabe, and the diplomatic sensitivities, he couldn’t be critical in the same way he could, for instance, be critical of the Gupta family.

On Friday Ramaphosa is set to address a National Council of Provinces sitting in Botshabelo, in the Free State, another “Premier League” province which on May Day managed to produce a big enough Cosatu trade union crowd to boo Zuma off stage.

Although the parliamentary sittings give him occasion to look presidential, that doesn’t necessarily count where you need it the most for an ANC elective conference – in the branch delegations themselves.

That is perhaps why Ramaphosa is scheduled to make an appearance at a rally in Limpopo this weekend – if social media flyers are to be believed. Last weekend in his home province the ANC Youth League scored a rather chaotic psychological victory when most of the leadership was re-elected and immediately pronounced in favour of Dlamini-Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma’s own home province of KwaZulu-Natal is awaiting a court judgement that could see the current leaders – who are among her chief campaigners – unseated and splits down the middle could emerge. Ramaphosa himself would want to contain any fissures on his own, much smaller, home ground. DM

Photo: Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa in a show of unity at the final session of the ANC’s National Policy Conference in June. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee.

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