Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of his preferred leadership slate, should he become president, didn’t only draw criticism from within the ANC. It also had his campaign team split in two in a debate about the old versus the new, exposing tension about principles within his camp. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.
Given his knack for Mantashing, it wasn’t really a surprise that ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe slapped the Cyril Ramaphosa campaign with a press release on Monday, without mentioning names, saying the announcement of slates was “unacceptable”.
But this time around Mantashe, who appears on the slate as chairperson, didn’t change his mind about Ramaphosa’s announcement or about being on the slate. He was against such a public display of association right from the word go, but lost the debate in the campaign caucus the week before.
Comrades should not “seek to usurp the entrenched right of the branches to nominate candidates of their choosing”, Mantashe said in the statement issued by the ANC.
Mantashe’s statement came the day after the presidential hopeful named his line-up at a rally in Limpopo, with science and technology minister Naledi Pandor as his deputy.
The others are: Mantashe for chairperson, former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu for secretary-general, former minister Thoko Didiza as his deputy, and Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashathile for treasurer-general.
Pandor, it is said, was chosen for her clean record in government, and also because she’s popular in the ANC. Of all the women, she got the third most votes at the party’s Mangaung conference in 2012.
She is said to have voiced her readiness to run for the presidency to some A-list guests at the birthday party last month of former minister Charles Nqakula in Johannesburg, telling guests:
“Who said Naledi Pandor is not running for the Presidency.”
She added that she chose not to grandstand like “some self-nominated candidates” – presumably referring to some other ministers and National Assembly speakers in the running.
After a meeting of Ramaphosa lobbyists on Friday decided to include Pandor on their slate, she was approached by phone, because she was in Jordan at the time.
The meeting was, however, divided over whether it was a good idea for Ramaphosa to announce the slate.
There was a strong push from his KwaZulu-Natal campaigners – they are said to play a leading role in his campaign – for him to go public.
His KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Sthembiso Mshengu explained the reasoning behind Ramaphosa’s decision to announce. He told Daily Maverick that Ramaphosa was the face of a campaign for change in the ANC. “The other slate that has NDZ (ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma) as the president, DD (Mabuza, Mpumalanga premier) as the deputy … that is a slate. It’s just that NDZ has never had an opportunity [to announce it]. I think she is very tired wherever she is. Everybody has a slate.”
Mshengu said Dlamini Zuma’s slate was developed before Ramaphosa’s in any case:
“We came a bit late, to such an extent that there was an outcry to say people did not believe that Ramaphosa was interested in availing himself. Nobody believed his campaign will take off and get momentum for him to be counted. Indeed it has taken off, and around the country there are better prospects for him to take over from the president (Jacob Zuma).”
He denied that Ramaphosa tried to undermine branches or broke any ANC rules.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, who is also playing a leading role in Ramaphosa’s campaign, told Stephen Grootes on 702 that everyone was campaigning on slates anyway, and Ramaphosa was just being transparent about it.
He said the nominations process was in its final stretch so Ramaphosa wasn’t dictating to branches.
Time-wise, there are just a few days left until nominations end on November 15, unless the national executive committee postpones this at its meeting this weekend. In reality, about half the branches still have to hold branch meetings. The other question is also whether Pandor has garnered enough nominations from branches so far to make it onto a provincial nominations list, or whether she will have to be nominated from the floor at the national conference in December.
Mthembu is said to have been one of those who supported Ramaphosa’s going public with it.
Mantashe, together with ANC NEC member Enoch Godongwana were, however, dead set against it.
Godongwana declined to confirm divisions in the campaign team, but did give his opinion on the matter. He’s a bit more old-fashioned and from the ANC’s coy tradition.
“It is not really about what people call a slate, other than saying first and foremost, the primary objective should be striving for unity,” he said.
It’s wrong to say branches must nominate and then give “guidance” to them on the matter, he said.
Also, it’s not for presidential candidates to get involved in the dirty campaign work.
“You don’t want to drag your principal into slate politics. Principals don’t nominate. When you talk this thing, other people are nominating. It’s not a good idea, because of ANC conventions. It’s something that is frowned upon,” he said. “I suspect he was incorrectly advised.”
Pronouncing on a slate is “reserved for poor souls like us”, he said, for the foot soldiers.
He said the ANC is “modernising, but it’s taking us a while to do that”.
Another catch with pronouncing in favour of Pandor is that it subverts the Ramaphosa campaign’s mantra that the deputy president should become president. Campaigners have previously said that, if a woman wanted to become president, this should be the way to go about it – implying Dlamini Zuma was in the wrong.
Pandor, at 63 (she will be 64 by the time the conference starts on December 16) is around the same age as Ramaphosa (he is 64, going on 65 by conference time). If she does become the country’s deputy president in 2019, she will be 65, and she will be 70 when her first term is done. Even if Ramaphosa decides to step down after just one term, the patience of the youth awaiting their turn might be too thin for her to ever become president. Besides, the ANC might not even be in power anymore by that time. DM
Photo: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the ANC’s Policy conference earlier this year. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee.
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