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‘It was not about a man, or woman’ — Women’s League defends choosing Ramaphosa over Dlamini Zuma in presidency bid

‘It was not about a man, or woman’ — Women’s League defends choosing Ramaphosa over Dlamini Zuma in presidency bid
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photos: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart // Elmond Jiyane / GCIS)

A decision by the ANC Women’s League to snub one of their own, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, for the ANC’s top job, ahead of the December elective conference – while nominating its preferred leadership – is seen as a dramatic shift that it has since defended.

The ANC Women’s League national task team has poured cold water over suggestions that it snubbed one of its own, presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, whom it backed to be the ANC’s first female president when the party had its 2017 elective conference.   

At a meeting this week, where preferred leaders were nominated, Ramaphosa, vying for a second term, received the structures endorsement with an overwhelming majority, after getting 52 votes against Dlamini Zuma’s seven. Meanwhile, another contender, former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, received only five. 

The Women’s League tentative leadership structure says it did not snub her,  as some reports suggested, as it barely focused on the top position but instead on other critical positions in the top six, due to public outcry over the lack of female representation in the party structures, according to coordinator Maropene Ramokgopa. 

“We have not snubbed her, she is part of the national task team; she was there when we were voting and deliberating on issues. She is a great leader that we really respect… But our focus now is to have influence in structures of the movement where decisions are generated as they are not generated in one position [presidency], they are generated by the officials [top six] of the ANC,” she told Daily Maverick.  

No change of heart

In 2017, the structure rallied behind Dlamini Zuma on the women’s card. Quizzed on the move from that position, Ramokgopa said circumstances were just different now. 

“There is no shift or change of heart. It’s just that we said to ourselves, when we look at society and we look at what has been happening in the ANC, the outcry that was there was not just to have a head of the structure being a woman. But the outcry was that there is no gender parity in structures of the ANC,” said Ramokgopa.  

Among the positions which the structure said it targeted is that of deputy president, which saw Defence Minister Thandi Modise seconded to be Ramaphosa’s second in command.   

Modise received 43 votes against chairperson ANC’s head of economic transformation Mmamoloko Kubayi’s four, and Minister of Correctional Services Ronald Lamola’s three. 

The endorsement by the league, which is considered to be a province at conference, became Modise’s first. It is of significance as it means her name will appear on the ballot papers.  

Defence Minister Thandi Modise. (Photo: Flickr / Christel Andler Celedón)

First woman

Ramokgopa was enthusiastic about Modise’s nomination, saying her credentials spoke for themselves to occupy the position, which has never been led by a female. 

 “Thandi Modise has impeccable credentials in the ANC, even if you look at the men that were nominated, she tops them. We didn’t put her there because she is a woman, she deserves to be there because of her credentials and work ethic. And we believe it is time as we have never had a woman in that position as well.”  

Ramokgopa further argued that although Dlamini Zuma did not emerge victorious in her nomination for presidency, Modise’s nomination signalled support for females to take up top positions as “it shows that we do have confidence in women leaders. Modise led the ANCWL for a long time, we do believe that she’s got what it takes… It was not just about Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma… focusing on person or position is misleading”.

Dr Gwen Ramokgopa at Cosatu’s 14th elective congress held at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand in September 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

Another position which the league has its eyes on is that of treasurer general, which is seen as a lifeline for the party. The structure gave Ramaphosa’s ally, Gwen Ramokgopa (who serves as coordinator of preparations for the 55th conference) a green light with an overwhelming majority of 52 votes against Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, the Provincial Task Team (PTT) coordinator of the ANC in Mpumalanga, who received nine votes. 

On backing Gwen Ramokgopa, the structure said the move would ensure that programmes for women’s emancipation are funded adequately, as this was not the case previously when the position was held by incumbent Paul Mashatile. 


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The second man after Ramaphosa to be endorsed by the structure was Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula for the position of secretary general. He received 39 votes, followed by former Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle with 10 votes, and former KwaZulu-Natal secretary general Mdumiseni Ntuli with eight votes. 

Febe Potgieter-Gqubule in October 2022. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee)

Green light as deputy

Meanwhile, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, General Manager at Luthuli House, was given a green light to serve as Mbalula’s deputy, after going head to head with the party’s Head of Organising Nomvula Mokonyane, who received 18 votes.  

 Read more in Daily Maverick: 

 Ramokgopa said they would be forceful in their fight to have women elected into strategic positions, even beyond the December conference.  

“It’s not only not going to end here because we have taken that decision. It has to apply even in provinces, regions and branches. We are looking at the entire ANC, including the lowest structures in branches. Because to make change, you have to look at the entire organisation, and including the lowest structures, otherwise you won’t be able to change much.”

When we look at deployment to strategic structures, whether in Cabinet, business, including premier of The ANC, we do not have a fair representation of women, as much as in Cabinet President Cyril Ramaphosa did attempt to at least give us gender parity. We don’t feel that women were given strategic ministries, for example, that we believe we can make a change on,” she said.  

In a first, the organisation said it had chosen to elect only women to serve as additional members, and in the highest decision-making body in between conferences, the National Executive Committee (NEC).   

The conference is scheduled to sit in 36 days. Mashatile on Wednesday said it was all systems go as thresholds had been confirmed to be in good standing.   

Party limping to conference

At the weekend, former president Jacob Zuma said the party was going to conference “limping”, following the disbandment of several structures including ANCWL, ANCYL and the ANC’s military veterans.   

Meanwhile Mokonyane, speaking to The Sunday Times, echoed similar sentiments, saying the party was at its weakest in its 110th-year history. 

Ramokgopa laughed off the remarks, suggesting that they were rich coming from leaders who too had been entrusted with the responsibility of leading ANC structures. This, as she argued that decisions to disband structures to her, was a strength, as opposed to a weakness. 

“When the ANC took a decision that the ANCWL and the Veterans League should be disbanded, it was precisely because they had overstayed their term of office. This, to me, is a strength because it says the ANC under President Ramaphosa will not tolerate anything that does not reflect the principles of ANC… that speaks to democracy and respecting the Constitution.  

“How does fixing anything become a weakness? So, I don’t agree with that, and I am on record. I think this is politics because we are going to a conference and we should, of course, expect things like these to come up.   

“The people that are raising some of these were actually the ones that were entrusted with the responsibility of leading structures in the ANC, like organising, which should have been able to exercise some monitoring and evaluation of structures of the ANC like the youth league.” DM



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    This government has never done anything, to quote JZ, but limp at anything since he was in power. And not surprisingly, because all its energy was spent on corrupt capture. 36 days is 36 too many. The electorate has had enough of the state’s nonsense.

  • Nick Miller says:

    For once I agree with the ANCWL. Select the best person for the job, if you want it done properly.
    Unfortunately, it is not a policy generally followed in SA!

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