South Africa

MATHABATHA'S SWITCH

Last minute horse trading with KwaZulu-Natal sees Limpopo delegates at odds over voting for Ramaphosa

Last minute horse trading with KwaZulu-Natal sees Limpopo delegates at odds over voting for Ramaphosa
A general view of Limpopo delegated during the nomination process at the ANC's 55th national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg, South Africa on 17 December 2022. Candidates were nominated for the top seven after credentials were adopted following lengthy debates in closed sessions on the second day of the conference. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

One of the most dramatic twists of the 55th ANC national elective conference is the last-minute drama and confusion about which way the Limpopo delegation was going to vote in the leadership contests, especially around the party’s top job.

More than 4,000 delegates were expected to start voting on Sunday 18 December 2022, on the third day of the conference. The biggest contest is between incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa and former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who are wrestling it out for the position of the party’s president.

With 613 voting delegates in the conference, Limpopo has the third largest voting bloc in the ANC and trails only KwaZulu-Natal, which has 877 delegates and Eastern Cape, which has 684 delegates.

The Limpopo delegates were mandated by their branches to vote for Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of ANC president and Limpopo Premier and ANC chairperson Stan Mathabatha as non-negotiable positions, and be open for discussion and persuasion by other provinces on the other top positions.

But it is believed that Mathabatha lobbyists were persuaded to dump Ramaphosa in favour of Zweli Mkhize in return for KwaZulu-Natal putting its full weight behind Mathabatha. But it was not Mathabatha who attempted to deliver the change-of-heart decision to the Limpopo delegates. 

It was his deputy Florence Radzilani – a former mayor of Vhembe municipality who is accused of the shenanigans involving the looting of the VBS Bank – who addressed the “shocked” delegates on Saturday, claiming the provincial executive committee has decided to dump Ramaphosa and go with Mkhize instead.  

Radzilani is said to have told delegates that the province will stick with Mathabatha on the position of chairperson and that his chances would be greatly enhanced by a strong support from KZN delegates.

However, on Sunday morning Limpopo Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) member Reuben Madadzhe distanced the province from “some statements making rounds in various media platforms wherein an unfortunate impression was created that we have deserted the outcomes of Branch General Meetings.

Chupu Stan Mathabatha elected chairperson at the ANC 10th Provincial Conference at the Ranch Hotel on 5 June 2022 in Polokwane, South Africa. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“The ANC Limpopo Province stands by its decision and also supports the outcomes of Limpopo BGM’S [branch general meetings] which affirmed Cde Cyril Ramaphosa for President, Paul Mashatile: Deputy President, Cde Mdumiseni Ntuli: Secretary General, Cde Nomvula Mokonyane: Deputy Secretary General, Chauke Bejani: Treasurer General and Cde Stanley Mathabata as the Preferred National Chairperson. 

“We further urge all delegates from Limpopo and beyond to exercise their right to elect leadership in accordance with the mandate of their respective branches,” Madadzhe said.

This decision communicated by Radzilani did not sit well with many delegates. The regional leaders convened their own meeting with delegates on Saturday evening and they told delegates to reject the Limpopo provincial executive’s latest position and stick with Ramaphosa’s mandate.


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“Many regional leaders and delegates were angry about the unprincipled conduct of some members of the PEC. They felt betrayed that the PEC and Mathabatha lobbyists had gone on to negotiate with KZN without asking for the mandate from the delegates,” said one of the delegates who participated in all these meetings, but had asked to remain anonymous. 

“So, a decision was taken that Mathabatha and the PEC would be alone in their agreement with KZN, we will still vote for Ramaphosa. Some delegates were so angered that they said they are going to dump Mathabatha because he is unprincipled and constantly changing lanes. If he does not win the position of the ANC chair, it will be because of what he and the PEC did,” said the delegate.

This version of events was confirmed by other delegates from Limpopo.

Another Limpopo delegate told Daily Maverick he was part of a meeting held in a hotel not far from the NASREC conference venue, where two PEC members tried for several hours on Saturday to “coerce” them to change their stance.

“We have always known that people have their own agendas and preferences but what we were against is being forced to change our minds after a collective decision was taken. Many of us felt Mkhize was being imposed on us,” the delegate said.

Provincial spokesperson Machaka Mathole confirmed that a number of parallel meetings had taken place since Friday, seemingly causing division among the delegates. 

“We are aware that there has been a lot of negotiations and horse-trading overnight. Last night there were some officials who presented the idea of Mkhize for president, however it was overwhelmingly rejected,” Mathole said.

Mathole, who also sits in the PEC, would not be drawn into commenting about his personal support of Ramaphosa. 

“People can have their personal preferences but they must not do it at the expense of the ANC in Limpopo,” he said. DM

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