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Weekend of accusations and discontent points to a storm on the ANC’s horizon

Weekend of accusations and discontent points to a storm on the ANC’s horizon
ANC National Executive Committee members David Mabuza, Pule Mabe, Siboniso Duma and Ronald Lamola during a session on Day 1 of its sitting at Nasrec. (Photo: @MYANC / Twitter)

There can be little doubt of the stakes at play for the ANC as it enters a pivotal week that may well set the scene for the party’s electoral conference in December.

With the ANC’s electoral committee set to release the party’s branch nominations lists on Tuesday, 15 November, developments this weekend, particularly at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, may be significant.

Much of the action appeared to involve President Cyril Ramaphosa’s enemies attacking him, although a closer evaluation suggests these attacks do not carry much weight.

At the same time, comments by the ANC’s Integrity Commission that it is not “toothless” may also need a proper examination. And a decision by the ANC Veterans League to nominate former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to the position of deputy ANC leader is likely to lead to more speculation about what could happen in December.

There can be little doubt of the stakes at play in the ANC this week. It may well be the most pivotal political week of the year, perhaps a scene setter for the ANC’s December conference. This is why this weekend’s NEC meeting was so important – many of those involved would have tried to get an early advantage for what is to come.

Coming to South Africa: Seven days that could make or break Cyril Ramaphosa

Key to all of this was the finding by the ANC’s Integrity Commission that it cannot blame Ramaphosa for the Phala Phala scandal. It has been reported that the committee instead found that although the scandal was damaging for the ANC, it could not determine who was to blame for it.

The Integrity Commission appears to have found that it could be the result of the actions of several people. These appear to include the actions of Ramaphosa, and/or an “ANC member” (presumably Arthur Fraser) for reporting the crime. It was not made clear how reporting a crime could be defined as unethical by the committee.

What is clear from the findings is that Ramaphosa told the commission very little, claiming he had been “gagged” by the office of the Public Protector.

Although he may believe this, as others have noted, it is difficult to understand how someone who is the victim of a crime could not tell the public what he has told the police, or the Public Protector’s office or any other body.

In the end, it’s now understood that Ramaphosa told the NEC the US dollars on his farms were the proceeds of a sale of an animal to a Sudanese businessman. And it appears, in one version at least, that he may not even have known that the money had been stuffed into the furniture.

‘Toothless integrity’

Earlier in the weekend, the ANC released a statement on behalf of the Integrity Commission disputing the publication of a “draft” report of its findings. The statement also included a claim that the commission “reiterates its rejection of the irresponsible referencing by some in the media including opinion makers and analysts to the Integrity Commission as ‘toothless’”.

It is not certain on what basis the commission denies being “toothless”. There is no public evidence of it making any impact on corruption in the ANC in recent times. As has been previously noted, it is hard to discern any political effect of the body’s work. It has often been ignored, with no apparent consequences for those investigated.

All of this led to a weekend of what the Sunday newspapers report was an offensive against Ramaphosa over Phala Phala by his critics. It was reported by both the Sunday Times and the City Press that three of the people who attacked him were Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, NEC member Tony Yengeni and an ANC MP Tandi Mahambehlala.

It is interesting to note who led this attack.

Dlamini Zuma has publicly announced that she is running for the position of ANC leader. Former president Jacob Zuma has said he is backing her. So far no province of the ANC, and no structure, has nominated her. It is now all but impossible for her to even contest for the position (the only option would be to get the support of 25% of delegates from the floor at the conference itself).

Yengeni may also be in a relatively weak position. As outlined by the party’s elections committee, chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, people cannot run for positions in the leadership, including the NEC, if “they have been found guilty of, or have been charged with unethical or immoral conduct, or any serious crime, or corruption. A serious crime is defined by the EC [Executive Committee] as a crime that could result in a prison sentence of longer than six months.”

This may mean that Yengeni has little time left on any ANC structure.

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Sisulu on attack

Meanwhile, on News24, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu lodged her own attack on Ramaphosa. So extraordinary were her comments, it is important to quote them at length:

“His rise to ANC presidency in 2017 was a result of a combination of money, manipulation and misrepresentation, aided and abetted by external forces on a level not previously experienced in the ANC.

“His application to court to seal the CR17 funds was a cover-up and still casts a dark shadow over the integrity of the outcomes of the conference.

“His failure to come clean on the Marikana massacre and to apologise where an apology is due is a blot on his character, and casts a shadow on the ANC.

“And, of course, the ongoing Phala Phala affair continues to put the ANC and the country in bad light.

“The assessment of leadership with the president as the head sees a dysfunctional ANC in all regards. Under this leadership, the ANC has disbanded all its leagues which represent an essential aspect of its ongoing existence.

“The organisation finds itself in the intensive care unit. We are unable to honour basic employment contracts with staff and workers, and we are nonchalant about it, even arrogant in our failure to care. South Africa has become the laughing stock of the world. These developments occasioned my discontent and, for the sake of the ANC and our country, the president must do the honourable thing and resign.”

Although some may agree with what she says, it may be worth asking about consistency. When Zuma was about to go to jail last year, she was perfectly happy to attend his last public rally, in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions. Yet here she is, demanding that Ramaphosa “do the honourable thing”.

It is worth noting that Sisulu, like Dlamini Zuma, has also failed to receive a nomination from a province or a structure and she is unlikely to be able to contest the leadership election in December.

In the meantime, the ANC’s Veterans’ League also released its list of nominations over the weekend. It says it wants Ramaphosa to remain leader, while also nominating Joel Netshitenzhe to the position of Chair, Gwen Ramokgopa as Secretary-General, Fébé Potgieter as Deputy Secretary-General and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy as Treasurer-General.

Not-so-quiet speculation

But the real development is the nomination of Phumzile Mlamblo-Ngcuka as deputy leader of the ANC. (The league is careful to note that she does qualify because she did not ever join Cope, as has again been alleged recently.)

This now puts into the open the quiet speculation that Mlambo-Ngcuka could make some kind of comeback into ANC politics. And it is likely to lead to more speculation, particularly if she is asked whether she will accept the nomination or not.

Although the branch nominations have not yet been made public, it certainly appears that it would be difficult for her to beat any of the other contenders. In particular, ANC Treasurer Paul Mashatile has support from several leadership structures, and from different leadership slates.

This makes it very unlikely that Mlambo-Ngcuka will be able to mount a sustained campaign.

This is likely to be a pivotal week in our politics. Still to come is the branch nominations numbers announcement on Tuesday, which will reveal the relative strength of each candidate. And then, probably on Thursday, the findings of the panel investigating Phala Phala for Parliament.

This weekend’s events may be just a warm-up for what is to come. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Small wonder the country’s infrastructure is shambolic while the ANC-led government is busy licking its self-inflicted wounds

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The ANC nonsense called the integrity commission has shown lack of integrity by saying that they cannot assign blame on Phala Phala. There is no question that there was theft in Phala Phala of foreign currency that was not reported to the police. That the President claims the matter was reported to the VIP Protection Unit and he thought it was appropriate. For a person who has not only a law degree, but the commamder – in – chief of the SAPS, only a fool can believe that he does not know where to report a crime. VIP Protection has a specific assignment, to provide static prptection to VIPs and their property and do not deal with criminal issues. The statement of Wally Rhoode will clarify whether we have a President not on;y accused of breaking the law but who has also lied. There is also the big matter of one of the people alleged to be involved arrested for firearms in Cape Town that the corrupt Hawks wanted to interview illegally until his lawyer intervened.
    The Phala Phala issue surrounds and is related to Cyril Ramaphosa who as a President of the country is accused of abuse of power, kidnapping, bribery, money laundering, violation of foreign exchange laws and regulations, defeating the ends of justice, general criminality, being a criminal nuisance and violation of his oath of office. That gimmick used to pull wool over the public eyes is not working and the geriatrics must go find fools elsewhere not in this country.

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