Less than two and a half months before the elections, a heavily divided ANC held “the longest NWC meeting in Luthuli House … ever!” according to a tweet by national working committee member Tony Yengeni on Tuesday morning.
At its regular meeting, the party’s powerful group of leaders had to discuss who would make the parliamentary lists for the ANC – which is expected to be released on Thursday “after vetting”. This in itself is a tough minefield to navigate given the amount of criminal allegations and ethical issues surrounding many leaders, even as President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to chart a clear, corruption-free path for the party and government.
The other issue was who should be the mouthpiece for the party going forward. With weeks to go until the 8 May general elections, the party at least needs to appear united – or coherent, if unity’s not an option.
The ANC’s spokesperson, Pule Mabe, was cleared of sexual harassment by an ANC panel last week. The panel included former Cosatu chairperson Sdumo Dlamini, who also dealt with former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s sexual misconduct case.
Mabe’s former personal assistant Kgoerano Kekaka, laid a complaint of sexual harassment with the ANC a few weeks back, but was unhappy with last week’s outcome. She subsequently went to the police and brought a criminal case. News24 reported that a NWC member as saying: “Although the ANC has cleared Pule, remember that his matter is not closed. His former PA went to the police.”
Just as Mabe was cleared by the party, the communications team was dealt another blow. Zizi Kodwa, head of the Presidency in the ANC and one of the acting spokespeople when Mabe stepped aside, was accused of rape this week. The complainant wrote a long letter detailing an incident in April last year at an apartment rented by Africa Global Operations spokesperson Papa Leshabane. According to her account, it involved champagne for breakfast (after a party the night before) that turned out to be laced with a rape drug, another female friend, and Kodwa in a night-gown and blue underpants. Kodwa has vehemently denied the charges, claiming that it is a political set-up.
Dakota Legoete, who has co-acted as spokesperson with Kodwa in the past few weeks, and who has been deputising Senzo Mchunu in ANC secretary general Ace Magashule’s office, now seems to be the only one remaining. According to sources, he will now be the ANC spokesperson.
Mchunu, who is aligned with the Ramaphosa camp and who lost to Magashule by a mere two dozen votes at the ANC’s elective conference in Nasrec in December 2017, has in effect been tasked with keeping an eye on Magashule, who is still strongly aligned to the camp of former president Jacob Zuma.
Legoete, ANC sources say, was the Ramaphosa camp’s first choice for spokesperson, but because the spokesperson and the ANC secretary general work closely together, they had to make a compromise for Mabe – who is aligned to the Zuma camp. The infighting between the Ramaphosa and Zuma factions in the ANC’s highly-staffed communications department broke to the surface last week when a statement was issued condemning Mchunu and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan for allegedly blaming “black engineers” for the crisis at Eskom. An apology statement was issued 24 hours later.
An ANC insider said Kodwa and Mabe’s cases looked like a removal on the surface, but in effect, “this is actually Cyril slowly getting the (national executive committee) he desired”.
Legoete was at a funeral in his North West home province for most of Monday and is said not to have attended yesterday’s meeting at Luthuli House.
The ANC might not as yet have found the coherence it needs to run a smooth campaign ahead of what will turn out to be the most hotly contested elections since 1994. DM
- This article was edited on 26 February at 6pm, to remove a speculative sentence.