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With 70% of the new NEC in his corner, Ramaphosa no longer has excuse for inaction

With 70% of the new NEC in his corner, Ramaphosa no longer has excuse for inaction
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC's 55th national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg on 17 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

President Cyril Ramaphosa won his first term as ANC leader with the narrowest of margins and a deeply divided NEC. This time around, things are quite different — and Ramaphosa should now have the political capital to make serious moves.

President Cyril Ramaphosa exits the ANC’s electoral conference and enters his second term as party leader in a much stronger position than previously.

Ramaphosa more than tripled his margin of victory against his presidential rival. He previously had to contend with a difficult ANC Top Six; this time around, the balance of power in the newly formed Top Seven is squarely in Ramaphosa’s favour: five of the top spots have gone to Ramaphosa and allies, just one to a member of a rival faction (Nomvula Mokonyane), and one to a politician who holds his cards too close to his chest to be classified: Paul Mashatile.

Ramaphosa also had to deal with a deeply and almost equally divided National Executive Committee (NEC) in his first term. With the announcement of the new NEC on Wednesday, this too has fallen away.

It is unlikely Ramaphosa could have hoped for a better outcome: 57 of the 80 new NEC members, by Daily Maverick’s calculations, fall within the Ramaphosa camp.

Less than a third of NEC seats have gone to allies of defeated presidential candidate Zweli Mkhize.

Loud voices in the Mkhize camp

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Zweli Mkhize during nominations of the top seven at Nasrec expo at the 55th National Conference on 18 December 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

What Ramaphosa’s NEC dissidents lack in numbers, they may hope to make up for in volume — as their members include some of the more forceful, and loud, voices in the ANC.

Back in is Lindiwe Sisulu, who had a shocker of an ANC electoral conference after failing to win sufficient support to make it onto the ballot either based on pre-conference branch nominations or hands from the floor.

One of the safest predictions you can make in South African politics right now is that Sisulu’s days as a Cabinet minister are numbered. The significance of this cannot be overstated: Sisulu has served in the Cabinets of every post-democratic South African president, from her days as deputy minister of home affairs in the Mandela administration.

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Lindiwe Sisulu. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lerato Maduna)

Effectively stripped of purpose and power, do not expect Sisulu to embrace retirement gracefully. Her attitude towards the Ramaphosa camp is likely to have hardened after the Nasrec humiliation, and if Sisulu is left with the NEC as her sole political playground, she is likely to make it count.

The other figure who may be further embittered by the Nasrec events is, of course, Zweli Mkhize. Now out of the Top Six, out of Cabinet, having failed in what was probably an expensive presidential bid, and with the threat of Digital Vibes-related prosecution hanging over his head, Mkhize is an intelligent man who has nothing to lose.

Mkhize and Sisulu are joined in their portion of the NEC by assorted blowhards and populists — see: Mzwandile Masina — as well as two of the worst-performing former Cabinet ministers of all time: Faith Muthambi and Bathabile Dlamini.

‘Reform22’ camp doesn’t always live up to its name

But the list of Ramaphosa allies who have made it onto the new NEC is not exactly squeaky clean either.

Dina Pule, anyone? Pule is the former Communications Minister who proved too much of a liability even for former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma fired her in July 2013 after a solid year or so of media exposés related to Pule’s relationship with a man who enjoyed taxpayer-funded travel overseas with Pule while being awarded lucrative communications tenders. It’s been a decade in the wilderness for Pule since then, but reported efforts to rebuild her constituency in Mpumalanga recently have clearly paid off.

Pule is joined in the “Reform22” camp of the NEC by Mduduzi Manana, who allegedly abused four women in 2017, and was found guilty of assaulting three.

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Tina Joemat-Pettersson. (Daily Maverick Archives).

Alongside them as part of Team Ramaphosa: Tina Joemat-Pettersson, best known for surreptitiously selling off South Africa’s oil reserves at an impossibly low price.

Another alleged crony in the nuclear deal arrangements, former state security minister David Mahlobo, also made it on to the new NEC under the Ramaphosa slate. Mahlobo, for years a ‘Zuma man’, was, as Minister of state security, found by the Zondo Commission to have been part and parcel of the corrupt shenanigans at the State Security Agency when Arthur Fraser was Director General

Joining the NEC for the first time: Khusela Diko, who resigned as Ramaphosa’s spokesperson after a scandal related to the awarding of a contract to her husband from the Gauteng health department during the Covid-19 pandemic.

NEC diverse on age, gender but not race

Observers have hailed the new NEC for achieving gender parity and also ushering in a much-needed youth injection.

But the composition of this NEC also suggests that the ANC’s claims of “non-racialism” are fading.

For the first time in the democratic era, there is just one white NEC member — Barbara Creecy — and zero Indian members.

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ANC veterans who declined nomination to the NEC this time around include former tourism minister Derek Hanekom and current public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.

With one of the few decisions — due to delays — coming out of the conference being that the department of public enterprises should be axed and state-owned entities be placed under other relevant departments, political retirement looks imminent for Gordhan.

Big picture remains Ramaphositive

Though the details of Ramaphosa’s electoral conference victories get a little more grubby the closer you look at them, the big picture still looks a lot rosier for the president than previously.

And it’s not just within the ANC that conditions have aligned to — theoretically — provide him with more solid ground for a second term.

Externally, in his capacity as state president, there are similar factors at play.

NPA is finally kicking into action. The sabotaging Public Protector who dogged his first term, for instance, looks to be on her way out. The Judicial Service Commission is making more sober decisions. Ramaphosa has a solid Chief Justice he can trust. 

On the surface, everything is set up nicely for a second term in which Ramaphosa can finally get to work making the kind of significant moves necessary to steady the course of the Good Ship South Africa.

If it weren’t for the Phala Phala scandal and the economic and political catastrophe that is load-shedding, Ramaphosa might almost be able to have a restful Christmas. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kevin Jacobs says:

    Cyril seems to be surrounding himself with criminals as a means to protect himself. The same MO as Zuma.
    I do confess that I do not forsee much change, even if he appoints new cabinet ministers. Remeber that his focus is on uniting the ANC first at the expense of the country.
    I eagerly await 2024 when the cANCer will be kicked out.

    • Michael Bellis says:

      Gerrie Nel and the Helen Suzman Foundation with either NPA or Private Prosecutions can now help Cyril sweep clean the NEC.
      Its also time for some of the fingered ones to sing like canaries.

  • Fritz Jesch says:

    At least a little step forward and too few steps aside. The Zondo Commission’s recommendations are sparingly applied. A thorough cleanout of the ruling party will take a long time. There are still plenty tainted members in influential positions protected by inconsequential party policies!
    The Mafia-like structures are still visible and only a few wings are clipped. The outcome the future will show. We can only hope for a ‘decisive’ cabinet reshuffle in the New Year!
    The main problem is still the diversity of the tripartite alliance. The grossly differing expectations of the alliance partners cannot be reconciled with wishful speeches!

  • John Counihan says:

    No excuses now, Cyril! Drive the corrupt into jail! Now! Horrifying to still see a crowd of hoodlums in the NEC. The ANC just can’t seem to shake off the incompetent and the dishonest.

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    It’s all so disheartening that this is the most positive outcome we could have hoped for.

  • SAM VAN WYK says:


  • R S says:

    It’s still the same old ANC that’s governed us for decades. I expect mild improvements, but nothing major in regards to the big issues like Eskom.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    No excuses for the oppositions. Since little will change, it is your opportunity to develop a strategy that will attract the majority of right thinking South Africans.

  • Oliver Rissik says:

    Phew !! Thank goodness for small mercies – now that the “conference” is over we don’t have to listen (or see) any longer to anything but the jostling for power. Mr President (and the rest of your cohort), please now think of South Africa and its people for a change, and not of the ANC or the characteristic jostling for a place at the trough.
    We have a wealth of bright and extremely competent people in high positions without the taint of scandal who could serve you, and the country, well in your cabinet.

  • Carol Green says:

    A good analysis but with a touch of Ramaphositive-tinted glasses. Many political journalists in SA seem unable to acknowledge that Ramaphosa, by his very nature, is incapable of being decisive, especially if it threatens the ANC in any way.
    Don’t expect any major changes in the way Ramaphosa governs.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    This is an abominable article that is very insulting to people who understand questions of leadership and organisations. For the author to provide excuses for incompetence and indecisiveness of Ramaphosa is a new low in political analysis. The author has not been looking at the UK Conservative Party and its leadership contests that are very fierce. But the UK Prime Minister can never be allowed by the British media to use the internal political party dynamics and the margin of win within the party as an excuse for failure to deliver. One clown came with the rubbish of Lesiba Tegu that the Buffalo is playing a long game. I looked at the fellow and told him that given the electricity emergency, the challenge of state capacity, the economy, the crumbling SOEs that require urgency if Ramaphosa is in the business of games, he must step aside so that a very serious person can lead. In politics, the margin of win is not an issue and one hears it for the first time from political plumbers and academics parading as as analysts. No party can remove a leader that is delivering and increasing its prospects of electoral reelection. These stupid excuses exist only in this country and a leader who is said to be playing a game would be lynched in other countries facing the very serious challenges we are facing that can threaten even the very stability of the country. The article is both lazy thinking and cannot pass political muster in a real democracy.

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