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Relief for Ramaphosa but the wolves remain resolutely on NEC doorstep

Relief for Ramaphosa but the wolves remain resolutely on NEC doorstep
The ANC's new top seven leadership from left: second deputy secretary-general Maropene Ramokgopa, first deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane, secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, chairperson Gwede Mantashe, President Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president Paul Mashatile and treasurer-general Gwen Ramokgopa.19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa can exhale, perhaps for the first time in days, now that Monday’s ANC election results delivered his people in five of the seven top officials posts of the governing party.

The two exceptions from outside President Cyril Ramaphosa’s slate are the deputy president’s post that went to Paul Mashatile, and the first deputy secretary-general’s post clinched by Nomvula Mokonyane.

But the votes show a tight margin. While a win is a win, the narrow counts indicate the last-minute horse trading and cajoling that went on behind the scenes. It may not have left the wounded of the 2007 Polokwane ANC conference where Jacob Zuma was elected, and the seeds of Cope planted, but it has potentially exposed pressure points to be exploited at a later stage in the heave-toe of ANC political jockeying.

The exact nature of deals done must and will emerge in the coming months, through leaks and what the ANC usually describes as “redeployments”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa embraces second deputy-general Maropene Ramokgopa following the announcement of her election during the ANC’s 55th national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg, South Africa on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Delegates celebrate President Cyril Ramaphosa’s second term, 19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

But how close it was, right to the end, emerged clearly in the 44 vote difference for the national chairperson post: 2,062 for Gwede Mantashe, Ramaphosa’s trusted party ally and battle axe, against the 2,018 for Stanley Mathabatha, whom many in Limpopo would like to see the back of before his final term as premier ends in 2024. 

Only 50 votes clinched Mokonyane the post over last-minute from the floor nominee, parliamentary police committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson by her home province of the Northern Cape, firmly in the Ramaphosa side.

It’s a 102-vote margin that put Fikile Mbalula in as secretary-general, triggering his resignation as transport minister, over Phumulo Masualle, deputy public enterprises minister. 

In the treasurer-general’s vote, the so-called other side associated with Zweli Mkhize as ANC president, could have had it — if Pule Mabe, the ANC national spokesperson, and ex-Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina actually had combined their bid before the vote, their respected 1,652 and 281, it could have beaten the, ultimately successful, pro-Ramaphosa nomination from the floor of Gwen Ramokgopa. Her 1,809 votes beat Mabe’s 1,652 by 157 crosses on the ballot paper.

First secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane is congratulated by secretary general Fikile Mbalula. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Delegates showing their support for president Cyril Ramaphosa at the 55th National Conference on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A comfortable margin was only scored by second deputy secretary-general Maropene Ramokgopa, 425 votes more than her rival municipal councillor and women’s league rep Ronalda Nalumango, but at a cost — resignation as Ramaphosa’s international relations special advisor.

In the two days to the election of the top seven officials — an ANC constitutional amendment to introduce a second deputy secretary-general was approved at plenary — word was that Mkhize’s side had lobbied hard to make headways.

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Meetings with Mpumalanga and Limpopo on Friday evening and at the weekend boosted confidence. The Ramaphosa lobby was reportedly worried but breathed a sigh of relief when word came that Limpopo stayed true, and Mpumalanga had also not switched.

Zweli Mkhize congratulates President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 55th National Conference on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

President Cyril Ramaphosa and newly-appointed deputy president Paul Mashatile embrace following the announcement of the top seven during the ANC’s 55th national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg, South Africa on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

“He’s worked hard” came the recognition for Mkhize also from those firmly in the Ramaphosa grouping. Ultimately it showed in the voting numbers: 1,897 for Mkhize, or just double the initial branch nominations, against Ramaphosa’s 2,476.

And that was enough to win a second term as ANC president, set to lead the party into the 2024 elections.

But it’s hardly a shift up from the 2,037 branch nominations that signalled a Ramaphosa win when they were first released. And the final tally is also just 283 votes over the winning threshold of 2,193.

All of this must raise caution even as the champagne corks are popped to celebrate what was a nail-biter right to the end. It’s a case of first hurdle done, now for the mountain.

“Time for dreaming is over. Results are announced now,” were Mantashe’s final words before the voting outcome detailed by ex-president Kgalema Motlanthe, head of the ANC electoral committee who told the old National Executive Committee (NEC) to vacate their conference seats on the platform.

He got as far as saying “One thousand…” against Mkhize’s name before delegates jumped from seats to gather before the stage singing for Ramaphosa.

It was the moment tensions broke.  

Grievances were raised from the floor over Mantashe’s win, and again on the secretary-general announcement after both were announced for the Ramaphosa slate. However, once the numbers were read out again, they seemed to be accepted.

Ramaphosa has avoided the potential horror of having won the Luthuli House presidency, he’d have officials from the other slate. But that may change yet: he’s said to have left it beyond the last minute to indicate his preferences for the National Executive Committee (NEC), the ANC’s highest decision-making body between conferences.

But at Monday lunchtime, Ramaphosa and his supporters could take a breather — first test passed, but a mountain (or two) ahead. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    OK – maybe Ramaphosa can now start to assert the agenda (or at least most of it) that he started his campaign in 2017 with, now that it seems the party is more united behind him. South Africa really needs this drastically. I only hope that Gwede Mantashe’s support for the coal lobby and the dragging of his feet about the signing of the REIPPPP contracts were congress related and that it will be greatly accelerated alongside the re-skilling process to retrain the coal workers so they can change their jobs into renewable energy workers. This load shedding really has to stop as soon as possible, and I know it can only be in 2024/2025 as a result of the delays, but then it must not be later than that.

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