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More like Mbeki, much better than Mabuza – analysts on how Mashatile will shape up as deputy president

More like Mbeki, much better than Mabuza – analysts on how Mashatile will shape up as deputy president
Paul Mashatile outside Parliament on 6 February 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

It’s early days as deputy president of South Africa, but political pundits are venturing a view of the type of leader that Paul Mashatile, a former struggle activist who cut his teeth in politics on the dusty streets of Alex, is likely to be.

Newly appointed Deputy President Paul Mashatile was recently given his assignment orders for his new role but it is his background that will  influence how he will approach the period ahead.

The role of deputy president is often seen as a place where ANC leaders go to hide until they want to contest the presidency. The previous incumbent, David Mabuza, almost seemed to “disappear” in the role but it is highly unlikely that this will be Mashatile’s strategy.

Mashatile, born in Gerhardsville, Pretoria in 1961, grew up in Alexandra in Johannesburg. It is where he began a life of activism and where he cut his political teeth.

Family friend and media practitioner Kay Sexwale, who grew up in a family that is embedded in politics, was raised around the likes of  Mashatile. She characterises him as “calm” and “reserved”. 

Sexwale is the niece of former ANC Gauteng strongman and businessman Tokyo Sexwale. 

“He is not noisy or boisterous. He is kind and it is one of his attributes that stand out a lot. I have known him for quite some years, both as a family friend and also as a boss or client. He is the type of person who will deal with the personal in the same manner as the political. So, he has been like a big brother to me both as a mentor on a personal level and political level,” said Sexwale. 

Life as a youth activist

Former ambassador Mohammed Dangor’s first interaction with Mashatile was in the 1980s in Alex when he was part of the United Democratic Front (UDF). 

“He was the type of person who really cared about the plight of the poor. He was a young man, very hard-working,” Dangor said, adding that he knew he would rise up the ranks of the ANC. 

In his early political life, Mashatile served as secretary of the UDF Southern Transvaal and was the first president of the Alexandra Youth Congress. Mashatille was detained without trial for his anti-apartheid activism from 1985 to 1989. 

The political palette for Paul Mashatile is far more rosier and more positive because he leads alongside Ramaphosa.

Most recently, he served as the chairperson of the ANC in Gauteng and was the ANC treasurer-general before being elected deputy president of the governing party. At one point before the December 2022 elective conference he held three positions in the ANC’s Top Six and earned the nickname “the holy trinity”.

However, he received a lot of flack for struggling to woo funders into donating money to the party, which has seen employees of the governing party constantly being paid late. Mashatile blamed the Political Party Funding Act which was only introduced in 2021 while the party had already begun to face financial difficulties in 2018.

He previously held several portfolios in government including Minister of Arts and Culture, Gauteng Premier and MEC for Human Settlement and Cooperative Governance.

Read in Daily Maverick:Analysis: The man who would be king — never, ever bet against Paul Mashatile

But his life has not been without controversy. He is known to be the kingpin in the Alex Mafia and was accused of not declaring his stake in various companies to the tune of R50-million and awarding dodgy tenders.

The “Alex Mafia” refers to a network of powerful political activists who started their activism in Alexandra township.

He also had tongues wagging when he blew R96,000 on dinner at an upmarket  Sandton restaurant during his tenure as Gauteng MEC of finance. The money was spent on entertaining his peers from the Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC) and Economic Development Unit which he headed at the time.

Personal Life

Mashatile met Manzi Ellen Mashatile at high school in the Eighties, and they tied the knot in 1994. The couple had two sons and two daughters, before Manzi died in July 2020 following a long illness.  

Shortly after his wife’s passing Mashatile founded a foundation in her honour. The intention of the Manzi Mashatile Foundation was to continue to fulfil her passion and commitment to the education of South Africa’s people, the empowerment of women and to community-level socioeconomic development.

In his maiden speech at the first Manzi Mashatile Foundation meeting, Mashatile said about his late wife: “Manzi was full of love, supportive and caring. She always called me Mogatso [“my husband” in Setswana]. The day she called me Paul I knew something was wrong! She was a woman of integrity, more than the word itself! I don’t think Manzi knew how to lie. Integrity par excellence.”

After more than two years as a widower, Mashatile has found love again. This past weekend it was revealed that he had married Humile Mjongile, the widow of late former ANC Western Cape secretary Songezo Mjongile.

Mashatile as deputy president

While it’s early days in his posting, political pundits are already venturing their views on the type of leader he is likely to be.

Political analyst Theo Venter believes Mashatile will make a better deputy president than his predecessor, Mabuza, because he is more “pragmatic”.

“David Mabuza was never convincing, I do not think that anyone ever took serious notes on what he said. So, in this sense and in my view, David Mabuza was a failure. I think with Paul Mashatile, despite all the rumours and the Alex Mafia, he is far more able to fulfil that position of the leader of government business in Parliament,” he said.

Read in Daily Maverick:One step closer to ultimate victory, Ramaphosa and Mashatile dominate ANC branch nominations

At the same time, Venter noted that the recently elected deputy president does give Ramaphosa more competition, politically. This was an aspect that has largely been spoken of in political circles as some ANC members wanted him to contest Ramaphosa at the ANC’s 55th national conference in 2022.

Deputy president DD Mabuza at the 55 National Elective Conference at the Nasrec expo centre on 16 December 2022. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Others believe that Mashatile’s turn to be the captain of the ANC’s sinking ship and at the helm of the country could be coming sooner than expected. If the Phala Phala farm saga turns out to be Ramaphosa’s downfall, this could present the perfect opportunity for Mashatile to step in as president of the country. 

A leaked and confidential report from the Office of the Public Protector clears Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing in the handling of the theft of forex at his farm and rather points fingers at the police and the head of the Presidential Protection Service, Major-General Wally Rhoode.  

​​Since Fraser made the public aware of the matter, a Section 89 Independent Panel was established to probe the matter. The panel, led by retired judge Sandile Ngcobo, found that there is prima facie evidence that Ramaphosa may have violated the Constitution and may have abused his powers.

However, opposition parties failed to garner enough votes to have the report adopted in Parliament, a move that could have seen Ramaphosa facing impeachment. 

While a tax compliance statement issued by SARS last week indicated that the $4-million sale of game at Phala Phala in 2020 has been declared.

Leadership style 

Venter added: “I think [how Mashatile will lead] is dependent on personality and dependent on governing style. Mabuza never wanted to be in the limelight, he wanted to disappear. I mean, we do not know why he went to Russia so often. Mashatile is far more open, his network especially in Gauteng is more accessible.

“It may just be that he may fill in the position of deputy president a little differently than any other previous person who occupied the position. I mean [former president] Jacob Zuma never had a lot of pushback from within his Cabinet, Ramaphosa allowed it. He has shown us that he deals with it. The political palette for Paul Mashatile is far more rosier and more positive because he leads alongside Ramaphosa.” 

Wits School of Governance professor Anthoni van Nieuwkerk explained that the position Mashatile holds can be seen as the role of prime minister. 

thabo mbeki unemployment

Former president Thabo Mbeki. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Van Nieuwkerk believes that if Ramaphosa and Mashatile are able to foster a good relationship, their partnership should mimic that of former president Nelson Mandela when his deputy was Thabo Mbeki

Although Mbeki was deputy president, he was referred to as the “de facto” prime minister, since Mandela left the duties of state to him while he presided over a process of national reconciliation and busied himself with international relations.

If Ramaphosa and Mashatile were able to build a similar relationship, it would mean the deputy president could freely carry out his duties and be the president-in-waiting. 

This would include being the acting president of the country when Ramaphosa is unable to carry out his duties.

Mashatile has powers under section 91 (4)of the Constitution to assist the President in the running of government.

Newly minted Deputy president Paul Mashatile embraces President Cyril Ramaphosa at the swearing in ceremony in Cape Town on 7 March 2023. (Photo: GCIS)

He is the leader of government business in Parliament. Mashatile has to lead the government’s effort to fast-track land reform, assist the Ramaphosa administration in the implementation of rapid response interventions on service delivery and troubleshooting in service delivery hotspots.

He is the chair of two Cabinet committees – Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development as well as Justice, Crime Prevention and Security.

Mashatile’s duties also include being a part of efforts towards building a better Africa, supporting investment facilitation and trade promotion, leading the National Human Resource Development Council and fostering collaboration between the government and social partners towards addressing the shortage of skills in critical sectors of the economy.  

The deputy president is the leader of the South African National Aids Council and the country’s integrated response to the challenges of HIV/Aids. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    We will know soon enough. I have my doubts that Cyril will serve a second term. The EFF knives have been unsheathed for some time and Mashatile is buddies with Malema, which tends to point to an ANC/EFF coalition if the ANC lose their majority in the national election next year.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    All the best to the new Deputy President. he should of course dissociate with the EFF leader who will bring him down!

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    “More like Mbeki, much better than Mabuza.” – Lets hope so! – But how close is he to Malema? Or, to put it another way, how much can Malema control Mashatile? If at all!

  • Palesa Tyobeka says:

    Looking forward to Paul Mashatile’s leadership. His public persona inspires confidence.

    What made you say “after more than two decades as a widower” Paul finally found love when he has been widowed for only two years?

  • virginia crawford says:

    Hard to be worse than Mabuza. More like Mbeki? As if that’s a good thing: the arms deal, HIV/AIDS, warnings about Eskom – and dear Julius and Fikile romping about in the ANC Youth League? The foundations of today’s chaos were laid under Mbeki’s watch, while he waxed on about the African Renaissance and racism. Many of the most useless cabinet ministers prospered under Mbeki, they just outlasted him.

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