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ANC ELECTS 2022

ANC women’s hopes — Emancipation expectations weigh heavy on Maropene Ramokgopa

ANC women’s hopes — Emancipation expectations weigh heavy on Maropene Ramokgopa
Newly appointed second deputy secretary-general Maropene Ramokgopa speaks to journalists on the sidelines of at the ANC's 55th national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg, South Africa on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Those who have been closely following the ANC’s politics over the years would know that the newly-elected “second” deputy secretary general of the ANC is no new kid on the block, having been deployed to critical positions by three ANC presidents. 

At 42 years old, she is the youngest member in the ruling party’s newly elected top seven leadership. Her political career spans over two decades, having initially carved her niche in the often crude and brutal ANC Youth League (ANCYL) school.

Ramokgopa made history when she ascended to power on Monday when she was elected the first “second” deputy secretary general of the ANC — a position which came into existence after the 55th National Conference passed a constitutional amendment for the position which, among other functions, was aimed at strengthening the party’s administrative capacity.   

The position was necessitated by the crisis that the secretary general’s office faced over the past five years. Former party secretary general Ace Magashule was suspended for involvement in the Free State Asbestos scandal. Then deputy secretary Jessie Duarte died earlier this year. This saw the then ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile juggling three positions.  

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)

Ramokgopa’s name was nominated from the floor and she emerged victorious having garnered 2,373 votes to Ronalda Nalumango’s 1,948.   

In her past interactions with the media, she’s always maintained a calm demeanour and expressed the importance of women and youth representation in the party’s top leadership structure.   

Read more: Ramaphosa allies form slim majority in top seven while Mashatile, Mokonyane balance the numbers  

Previously, the party’s top six structure had a single woman, the late Duarte. The newly elected top seven leadership has three women, a first for the ruling party.  

The newly elected women are, Ramokgopa, Nomvula Mokonyane — the first deputy secretary-general and Gwen Ramokgopa, the newly elected treasurer-general, who too made history as the first woman to occupy the position. 

ANC’s head of transformation, Mmamoloko Kubayi said, “having three women in the leadership, a gendered generational mix, this is a mixture of different generations that are there. I believe society will be able to resonate with us”.

Kubayi believes the mix will also bring about vibrancy to the party.

Among other positions, Ramokgopa is currently a member of the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) in Limpopo, she is also a chief advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa on international relations at the African Union (AU). 


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In June this year, she was appointed coordinator of the national task team (NTT) of the disbanded ANCWL.

President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulates Maropene Ramokgopa to the position of second deputy-general at the 55th National Conference on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The women’s league national executive committee’s term expired after the league failed to convene a conference in the previous two years under the leadership of convicted perjurer Bathabile Dlamini.  

Among other duties, Ramokgopa and her team were tasked with ensuring that the league’s structures were in good standing, and conferences were held in branches, regions and provinces to ensure its national conference is convened within a year. 

At the time of her appointment as coordinator, the move was seen as Ramaphosa’s consolidation of power at the party’s headquarters, Luthuli House ahead of the 55th conference. 

Speaking to the media at the time of the ANCWL appointment, she shut down criticism of her capabilities by publicly stating her credentials and arguing she would not stop supporting Ramaphosa, as he previously supported his other bosses; former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.    

In the same breath, Ramokgopa said she was not in the business of fighting anyone’s battles but to strengthen and rebuild her organisation. 

As early as age 26 she had already started occupying executive positions. Mbeki appointed her Northern Cape mayor in 2006 which made her the youngest mayor in the country at the time.  

Zuma appointed her to represent SA as the head of mission at the consulate general in Mumbai, India in 2016 a position she occupied until 2020.   

Since 2008, she has served on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC Youth League. 

In a wide-ranging interview with Daily Maverick last month, she was unapologetic about her credentials amid a lack of confidence in her capabilities and those of women which the structure endorsed as preferred candidates ahead of the conference.      

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

At the party’s 2017 conference, the structure rallied behind Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on the women’s ticket. Quizzed on the move from that position, Ramokgopa told Daily Maverick that circumstances were 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,” Ramokgopa told the publication.

Ramokgopa’s win is a victory for the women in the party and so is that of Gwen Ramokgopa, the newly elected treasurer-general who was the structure’s preferred candidate.  

On why the structure endorsed Gwen for the treasurer-general position, Maropene told Daily Maverick that, 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 Mashatile. 

The news of Ramokgopa’s victory has been characterised as a step in the right direction, particularly by those close to her. 

Kubayi added that “Maropene Ramokgopa represents what we have aspired for.”  

Minister in the presidency, Mondli Gungubele said, “the future of South Africa looks bright.” DM 

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