South Africa

ANALYSIS

RET’s candidacy for ANC leadership? Lindiwe Sisulu appears to be jumping out of the starting blocks early

Minster of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

While the political year has only just begun, it is already clear that for those in the ANC, the main issue will be the choice of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s opponent in the December election of the party leader.

For the moment there’s to be no formal challenger, no heavyweight to throw their hat into the ring. Still, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu appears to be making noises that suggest she is keen to try her luck for a second time — she was a candidate for deputy president in 2017, losing to David Mabuza.

However, she may find this difficult to do, as she does not appear to be in control of a well-oiled political machine necessary for such an endeavour. She would also face an incumbent who seems to have a stronger political mandate than when he took over the ANC. 

There are also important questions on the people Sisulu is surrounding herself with and has given jobs to.

In 2017, while the main race was between now Cogta Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and now President Cyril Ramaphosa, Sisulu was also technically one of the contenders. In the end, it was not to be.

Now the signs are starting to flash again.

First, in IOL, she wrote an article in which she appeared to attack our law and our judges, saying that “in the high echelons of our judicial system are these mentally colonised Africans”.

This has been widely criticised.

In Daily Maverick, Mavuso Msimang labelled it as “gibberish”.

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In News 24, spokesperson for the justice minister Chrispin Phiri called it a “distortion of ANC policy”.

Then, on Sunday, City Press ran another piece from Sisulu. This time she suggested there should be a “rethink” of the education system and that it should be properly decolonised.

All of this follows other behaviour which has led to some questions being asked.

Last year, Sisulu was a part of a large group of people gathered at Nkandla when former President Jacob Zuma was threatening not to submit himself to correctional authorities after he was ordered to serve time by the Constitutional Court. Even though lockdown regulations then in place were obviously being broken, she still attended the event, while a serving Cabinet Minister.

It looks fairly obvious that Sisulu may be looking to be a candidate to represent what is often called the “RET faction” in the ANC, that she could be their candidate against Ramaphosa.

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This claim appears strengthened by some of the appointments she has made while in government.

As Human Settlements Minister she appointed ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini as chair of the interim board of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority. This was despite Dlamini having being found by a court to have lied during the social grants payment crisis.

When Mmamaloko Kubayi took over the Human Settlements ministry, she removed Dlamini from the post.

Then there is her appointment of Steven Motale as her spokesperson.

Before this appointment, Motale had been a newspaper editor. He had been running The Citizen for some time before he, in 2015, suddenly penned a puzzling article in which he out of the blue apologised to then president Jacob Zuma. He said that he had only recently realised that the original judgment in the trial of Schabir Shaik was not about the guilt or innocence of Zuma.

Then Motale’s newspaper started to run reports highly critical of former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. He was fired from The Citizen and suddenly made editor of Iqbal Surve’s Sunday’s Independent in 2017.

Within weeks he presided over the publication of an explosive claim that Luthuli House was to be attached for the payment of the ANC’s debts. In a humiliating climb-down, Independent Newspapers ran a front-page apology in its daily publications explaining that the “court order” on which the story was based did not in fact exist.

Motale was not removed, but then published a report claiming that Ramaphosa was trying to extort favours from young women for money.

In 2018, Motale left the paper and became Sisulu’s spokesperson. It is not clear what unique skills and experience he brought to the position, but he cannot claim to be in a position of having a moral compass.

Then there is Paul Ngobeni, who appears to be a long-time adviser to Sisulu.

He returned to South Africa after fleeing the US in 2007. He is still listed on the website Bail Bonds there for skipping bail.

He eventually became an adviser to Sisulu, before she fired him when she was Defence Minister in 2011. Despite what seems to be a complicated history, he recently published a piece referring to her as “President Sisulu (Elect)” and praising her leadership.

He has previously claimed that Ramaphosa’s last Cabinet reshuffle is based on “anti-Sisulu-phobia”.

These pieces were both published on the website African News Global, which is owned by the deputy leader of the Patriotic Alliance Kenny Kunene. It is no surprise that these pieces, glowing in their praise of Sisulu, are being published on this platform. She was at the site’s relaunch (along with Carl Niehaus, Zizi Kodwa, Lindiwe Zulu and others) and her keynote address was read to the gathered dignitaries (she had to leave the event early).

Kunene, while claiming to be a reformed gangster and the deputy leader of a party opposed to Sisulu’s, also has strong RET links. He and the party’s leader, Gayon Mckenzie, were both reported by the Sunday Times to have been part of a trip to Russia to discuss a massive energy deal, led by Zuma’s State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

Judging by the social media campaign in the wake of Sisulu’s articles, there is a clear RET signature in her support.

While there are many swirling dynamics within the party at the moment, there is little evidence to suggest that Sisulu has strong support.

Chiefly, she does not appear to have a strong constituency. There is no one province or group which has ever expressed its preference for her.

Of course, it can be difficult to properly assess a person’s support in the ANC without speaking to all the party’s branches. But, in 2017, she received 619 nominations for the position of deputy president while now Deputy President David Mabuza gathered 1,128.

On the face of it, this may look like strong support. But at the time, she appeared to be on Ramaphosa’s ticket, and so it is difficult to properly assess her real support.

There are other questions on her strategy.

So far it appears that she is espousing “radical” change, and her IOL piece about judges and the rule of law certainly seems to suggest that. But she was happy to serve in the Cabinet of then-President Thabo Mbeki without complaint. Have her views changed, or does she believe that this kind of radical stance is a winning ticket?

It may simply be that she believes Ramaphosa’s weak point is his deliberate centralism and thus she needs to be the candidate of the “radicals”.

Or she may simply be jockeying for some kind of position if an RET ticket does emerge and Ace Magashule is still tied up in legal problems.

But for the moment, lacking a visible constituency and proper campaign machinery, it does appear that the odds are stacked against her. DM

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All Comments 26

  • The mere fact that this useless incompetent person is still in the government speaks volumes for the state of the nation and South African politics. But it would be foolish to dismiss the RET brigade which lurks in dark corners undermining this fragile democracy.

  • The way i see it people in govt who want to tear down have personal agendas and those who want to build up have societal agendas. Its easy to spot them right from the start.

  • The same princess who stood up in parliament and (A) ranted and raved defending Jacob Zuma’s impeachment; and (B) told another member of parliament to “take his flea infested body and shut up”. Illustrating her morale decay and lack of accountability for the current state of the SA economy. She is a disgrace to good South Africans. Why President Ramaphosa thinks she should be our Minister of Tourism is mind boggling. Such a mindset is the furthest thing that should be associated with attracting tourists. Ever seen the movie with Meryl Street, “The devil wears Prada”? Perhaps this princess is….

  • She is an interesting set of contradictions. Totally focused on decolonisation and removal of all forms of western influence, but all photos of her seem to indicate that she is making a concerted effort to change her appearance to look as Western as possible. Strange.

    • “Tell me, tell me, tell me why
      I want to know the fact
      Why all the black people want to go white
      And the white people want to go black”
      Jeremy Taylor: Black-White Calypso (1966)

  • Another one of the gaggle of useless cronies that slip from one portfolio to the next, leaving only a sliver of slime behind to show they were there
    I am never sure what decolonising education means, subjects like history maybe.
    But surely 1+1 must equal 2 , you must give correct answers to questions and the earth is round.
    Oh hang on this is the ANC

  • I feel she is trying to show herself as a thought leader for the RET faction. Fortunate for her, you don’t have to make sense, just sound revolutionary to be a thought leader in that faction.

    She thinks being cheeky is a criminal offence, so I think she would make a highly entertaining but useless president.

    • Since when has ‘useless’ become ‘entertaining’ ? Especially at presidential level . Unless Trump or Boris are your yardstick. Get a hold of yourself … otherwise you stoop to her level !

  • Stephen, please explain your headline ‘LS appears to be jumping out of the starting blocks early’. It seems to me that she stumbled out of her cage, fell on her face right into some dog poo and is now spitting it out. God spare us this waste of breath.

  • “In 1973, Lindiwe Sisulu graduated from Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in Mbabane, Swaziland. In 1980, Sisulu received a BA degree and Diploma in Education, and in 1981 received a BA Hons in History from the University of Swaziland. She also received an MA in History, and in 1989 an MPhil from the Centre for Southern African Studies at the University of York in the UK.[2]”
    “This time she suggested there should be a “rethink” of the education system and that it should be properly decolonised”.

    She seems to have made the most of her colonial education, but would now like to keep the masses stupid.

    “During her exile from 1977 to 1979 she joined the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, specialising in Intelligence”. Intelligence was headed up by JZ, so clearly their alliance goes way back when….

  • Why cr can’t just get rid of all these useless cadres in one cabinet shuffle, is beyond me.
    jz would have no qualms getting rid of good people who he couldn’t manipulate to be his loyal subjects and for that one and only reason I respect him. In all other matters he is a sleezeball of note with no morals and no integrity.
    cr just doesn’t have the same size b0lls as jz.

  • Populist, left-wing, anti-western rhetoric will continue to resonate with a large part of the South African population for as long as the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment debilitatingly impact the lives of so many. Sure, government failure can be seen as not having improved the situation but neo-liberalism and capitalism are correctly seen as the creators.

    My point is that if we want to remove the fuel from the fire of this type of rhetoric, transformation in South Africa needs to seen to be occuring. No amount of media criticism and public commentary will achieve that result while the western ideals we claim superior are not experienced by the majority of South Africans.

    • I agree whole heartedly but we need to see the real problem which is government, or let’s say the ANC, working against that because the last thing they want is a stable country with a growing economy. There are simply too many ‘business opportunities’ amongst all this chaos and those will dry up in a stable, well run country. And that is why there is so little respect for the cadres from, let’s say, the better off section of the population and the ANC continually bangs the drum which is never scrutinised by the majority of voters.

    • There is no “triple challenge”, Lawrence. It all hinges on employment. If you have no job, you are poor. Very poor. If you are poor, then you are inequal compared to those you do have a job.

      The fundamental failure of the ANC is their assumption that ideology will create jobs. It never did, and it never will. Their profound distrust of business (real business, employing people and producing goods and services, rather than tenderpreneurs) has meant that they have created endless barriers to doing business in South Africa.

      And that’s why the young, the wealthy the skilled, the intelligent, are leaving RSA.

  • If indeedLindiwe Sisulu is gunning for top spot, and as unannounced queen of RET faction, then we are all in for trouble, because as the presidential electoral process draws closer, we can be sure of more chaos , more infighting among g the ANC top echelons , which trauma always filters down through the ranks of the party, before spilling out into the public sphere, thus affecting negatively everyone else.

  • This is a prime example of a psychopathic personality, who believes you can ‘inherit’ greatness by simply carrying the SURNAME of a great father … and that greatness does not require any individual character, intellect , or morality ! Oh Walter … what have you inadvertently trust upon us hapless people ? BUT then … it is part of fundamental CADRE deployment (irrespective of how despicable and lame-brained the individual) in the ANC … as CR has confirmed in his speech a few days ago ! It also explains why the forthrightness of an Arch (or even Madiba) is such anathema to many in the organisation .