ROAD TO ELECTIVE CONFERENCES
Ramaphosa’s second-term bid on shaky ground after ANC factions clash over State Capture report
Assassinations in KwaZulu-Natal and President Cyril Ramaphosa supporter Gwede Mantashe being in hot water could make upcoming elective conferences very messy.
Fallout over how the ANC should implement the recommendations contained in the report on State Capture by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is threatening to destabilise one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s strongholds.
ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, a key ally in helping Ramaphosa to rise to the presidency in 2017, is said to be increasingly worried about being hauled over the coals regarding recommendations in the report that he be charged with corruption for free security installations in his Elliot and Boksburg homes by former security contractor Bosasa.
Mantashe admitted to not paying for the upgrades but denied wrongdoing, saying as secretary-general he had no say in who got government contracts.
But Zondo said in his report that Bosasa tried “through Mr Mantashe and the inducements and gain provided to him, to influence the leadership of those departments and organs of state, a leadership drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of the ANC and falling within the categories of public office bearers”.
Corruption charges could see Mantashe being forced to step aside, following the precedent set by suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule. This could rule him out of the leadership race and potentially also lose him his job in Cabinet.
Mantashe is now battling with Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, who has emerged as a key Ramaphosa campaigner and who is contesting to be re-elected at the province’s conference late next month. Mantashe has reportedly been backing a challenger to Mabuyane, Amathole regional secretary Terris Ntutu.
“It is currently one of our biggest threats,” a Ramaphosa backer told DM168 this week.
The Eastern Cape is, together with KwaZulu-Natal, traditionally one of the party’s biggest provinces at the national elective conference and presidential contenders need the backing of either of these provinces if they want to stand any chance of success.
Mantashe, who is also minister of mineral resources and energy, together with a number of Cabinet ministers, attended Ramaphosa’s investment conference on 24 March, but did not want to comment about ANC matters there.
Ethical leadership needed
But one of Ramaphosa’s investment envoys, National Executive Committee (NEC) member Derek Hanekom, speaking at Ramaphosa’s fourth investment conference, said the investment landscape would remain tough in 2022 owing to the political uncertainty leading up to the ANC presidential race in December.
“As the ANC, we have to be serious about what kind of leadership we are looking for. We must be serious about installing a much better leadership,” Hanekom told DM168, adding that he preferred Ramaphosa to have a second term as the ANC’s president.
“The outstanding question is who will lead with him in the party’s top structures. That is where we need ethical leadership. The December conference will be a game-changer because investors need political stability from the ANC. They need confidence that our institutions and democracy are not under threat. If the ANC collapses and scurrilous forces try to take over the party, our Constitution and democracy will come under threat.”
The ANC committee set up to process the Zondo Report and to devise the party’s response to it, is tabling its first report to the ANC’s NEC at a scheduled meeting held virtually from Friday, 25 March to Sunday, 27 March.
The programme of action for ANC renewal, the tabling of a report by the party’s electoral committee, proposals on “organisational design of ANC headquarters and other offices” and the status of upcoming conferences in regions, provinces and in the leagues are also on the agenda, according to an ANC statement.
Provincial secretaries held a two-day meeting earlier in the week to thrash out some of these issues with acting secretary-general and party treasurer-general Paul Mashatile, and Gwen Ramokgopa, who was appointed to provide support in the secretary-general’s office.
Eight provinces and a number of regions, as well as all the leagues, still have to hold their conferences. Many have been delayed owing to fights about membership and audits.
For example, two members of the ANC Youth League’s provincial preparatory committee alleged in a court application on 25 March that their complaint about a “dummy” membership database was not dealt with properly by the National Youth Task Team that is currently running the league.
Most NEC members interviewed by DM168 expected the ANC renewal commission to be appointed at the weekend meeting, or soon after.
A number of ANC insiders also said that Deputy President David Mabuza was unlikely to run for a second term in the position, and that Ramaphosa preferred Defence Minister Thandi Modise as his replacement.
Mashatile, however, also stands a strong chance, as he is reportedly quietly campaigning for the position. Mashatile has in the past had a good working relationship with Mabuza.
eThekwini torn apart by divisions
Meanwhile, the period leading up to the ANC’s critical eThekwini regional elective conference scheduled to start on 2 April has been bedevilled by violence in branches and even assassinations.
Some of these include the killing of Thulani Shusha, a 51-year-old Umlazi ANC branch leader, who died in a hail of bullets in February this year, and Minenhle Mkhize, a 39-year-old ANC ward councillor who was shot and killed in January this year, less than three months after assuming his position as a councillor.
eThekwini has been torn apart by divisions and it is led by a task team after the previous leadership, then chaired by former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, was disbanded.
Gumede was the mayor of eThekwini Municipality when she was arrested in May 2019 and formally charged – alongside 21 co-accused – with fraud, corruption and money laundering in connection with a R320-million Durban Solid Waste tender.
The case is ongoing in court and its continuation was used to force her to step aside from the position of Member of the KZN Provincial Legislature, to which she was later deployed by the party.
The eThekwini region will set the tone for elective conferences in other highly contested ANC structures such as the youth and women’s leagues, regions and provinces around the country in the coming weeks and months.
Only the Northern Cape has been able to hold a successful ANC conference; the party’s other eight provinces will hold theirs later this year. Of the party’s 52 regions, 34 are also due for elective conferences.
eThekwini is the biggest region of the ANC in the country, with a total of 111 branches and more than 100,000 members.
In the past this region used its considerable political weight to choose the direction of the ANC KZN provincial leadership and had a huge influence in determining who led the party nationally, as it did with former president Jacob Zuma.
A fight for supremacy
Gumede is standing again for the position under the Unity faction or slate. Even if she emerges victorious, she could still be forced to relinquish the position under the ANC’s resolution that states that leaders facing criminal charges should step aside voluntarily or be forced to do so.
For the chairperson’s position, Gumede is pitted against current eThekwini council speaker Thabani Nyawose, who heads a faction called the Renewal, Rebuilding Unity (RRU) in the ANC.
Before a regional conference takes place, at least 70% of branches should have met and nominated delegates to go to the conference. Of the eThekwini region’s 111 ANC branches, 82 have sat for their branch general meeting, thus reaching the 70% benchmark. Regional and provincial leaders will meet on 26 March to determine the venue of the conferences and other logistics.
Xolani Dube, a Durban-based political analyst, said ANC branches were suffering as these two factions fought for supremacy.
He said the branch chairs and secretaries would play crucial roles in determining who emerges as the winner in this tight race.
“Money plays a big role in ANC politics. eThekwini is one of the most prized assets and money is being splashed out to win branch chairpersons and secretaries so that they vote in a certain direction. It will depend on who has the biggest budget,” he said.
Dube said the ANC’s eThekwini region has attracted financial interests because it heads the eThekwini Municipality, with a R52-billion annual budget.
“These financial interest groups know that, once they elect the right people into positions in the ANC, they will control how the municipal budget is spent. So eThekwini region is more important than any other region in the province,” he said.
A few branch leaders who spoke to DM168 on condition of anonymity confirmed that they were being lobbied hard, and financial incentives had been dangled in their way to convince them to ditch one side and support the other.
A secretary of a branch west of Durban said: “My branch has been divided down the middle because of the money involved. Our branch agreed that we must go with the RRU slate but, lately, my chairperson said we must change sides and go with Unity because there is money involved.”
Both factions have denied using money to sway branches.
Bheki Ntuli, one of the leading figures in the RRU camp, said they had run a clean and smooth campaign, focusing on convincing branches to renew and rebuild the party.
“Branches have seen what divisions have done to the party and they want a united ANC. We are sure that our campaign resonates with the aspirations of ANC members. We are confident that we will emerge victorious,” he said.
Ntando Khuzwayo, one of the leading lobbyists of the Gumede (Unity) camp, said they were concerned about the actions of the regional task team and the ANC KZN provincial executive committee that were allowing branches that had not sat for branch general meetings before a threshold was reached to reconvene.
“We are concerned about this because it seems to favour one camp against the other. However, we are still confident that we will still win this conference with a landslide majority,” he said.
Khuzwayo did not rule out the possibility of some members who might decide to approach the court to interdict some branches from participating in the upcoming conference.
High stakes for KZN conference
Both camps said they wanted to win the regional conference first before casting their eyes on the provincial and national leadership tussle. This is likely to keep the provincial and national factions on tenterhooks, as the outcomes could go either way.
Nhlakanipho Ntombela, KZN ANC provincial spokesperson, told DM168 that, apart from eThekwini, five other regions in the province were due for elective conferences.
These are the Lower South Coast, Mzala Nxumalo region (formerly known as Zululand region), Inkosi Bhambatha region, Harry Gwala region and Musa Dladla region.
Stakes are high in the KZN provincial conference, as KZN Premier and ANC provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala faces a stiff challenge in the form of Nomusa Dube-Ncube, ANC provincial treasury and MEC for Finance.
Some analysts say this is the reason why Zikalala has been pandering to the Radical Economic Transformation faction lately by calling for a review of the South African Constitution, which he said hampers transformation of the South African economy when laws enacted in Parliament are overturned in the Constitutional Court.
Early this month, the ANC’s national working committee decided to dissolve the provincial executive committees in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.
Loyiso Magqashela, spokesperson for the ANC in the Eastern Cape, said the province was hoping to hold regional conferences in Chris Hani region (targeting the first week of April), Alfred Nzo region (second week) and Sarah Baartman (third week).
“The provincial conference is expected to start on 23 April. For any organisation going to hold conferences [there] would always be those minor issues and hiccups but we are dealing with them.
“Since the PTT [provincial task team] took over it has been working very well and dealing with issues as they come,” Magqashela said.
Gauteng is another province that is due to hold a provincial conference. Here, Panyaza Lesufi, the MEC for Education, is set to tussle with Lebogang Maile, the MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, for the position of provincial chairperson.
The incumbent chairperson is eyeing a promotion to the position of ANC general secretary under the Cyril Ramaphosa slate. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.