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The grey dawn of ANC Election 2019 list conferences


Susan Booysen is Director of Research, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), and visiting and emeritus professor, Wits School of Governance.

South Africa’s ‘new dawn’ is confirmed, by all current indices, as a space that will be a long-term transitional period.

The future is a grey zone where the “dawn” will be slow to break economically, where kingpins of looting may endlessly evade justice, and where African National Congress candidates for 2019 will be the products of compromise and organisational inclusivity, more than intense scrutiny.

Nowhere is this better epitomised than in nomination processes of the ANC, via its branch and provincial structures, which are now unfolding across the provinces. The processes are gaining momentum, albeit lagging behind the original timeline that had been set in the ANC guiding document, the “ANC candidate selection process 2019 elections”.

It offers six pages of guidelines and nomination-selection criteria that the ANC branches have to follow in their nominations for Parliament and provincial legislatures. The extended ANC National Executive Committee will constitute the eventual national list conference (probably towards the end of 2018), besides the provincial list conferences that will centre on the provincial executive committees.

At both levels allowance is made for 10% of the voting delegates to come from leagues, the alliance and other ANC structures. Competition is fierce; this is after all the site for contest over future power (in coalition or without). Processes for appeals and objections are spelt out.

The big question at this point is the extent to which the prolonged processes of the cut-throat 2017 nominations for the ANC’s Nasrec conference, and the 2018 processes of resolving inter-factional fallout in provincial structures (often acrimonious but calmer by now) are spilling over into the new round of contests.

The current round is driven both by personal ambition, perhaps even individual commitment to build a post-Zuma ANC, and by spillover factional warfare, in which the Ramaphosa-Zuma battle lines are redrawn, in places, for control over the next generation, post-Election 2019 set of democratic (and patronage) institutions.

The best indicators that we have at this stage as to how these processes of the next two months will unfold are the state of the ANC provincial structures and how the 2017 into 2018 wars have been settling.

Across several, perhaps the majority, of the provinces there are approximate (although fragile) truces in the ANC structures. This is, unless there is a deep and hitherto hidden capture plot.

At the visible level, “unity” in the form of mixed provincially elected slates appears as the chosen mode of operation. Such have been the cases in, for example, Gauteng, Limpopo and to some extent in KwaZulu-Natal. In KwaZulu-Natal there was a unity election of the provincial chairperson. Gauteng veered in a one-factional direction, but then delegates voted in important non-Ramaphosaists as well.

While ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule in mid-year was still using the KwaZulu-Natal conference to rally support for the Msholozi cause, the Maharani plot exposés have now either dampened that initiative or driven it deeper underground.

Another trend — prevailing in major provincial places, yet not consolidated — has been the delegitimisation of court action to counter the results of the provincial elective conferences that happened this year and last (not all provinces had these conferences scheduled for 2018).

Cross-factional legal action to challenge processes of gate-keeping, fake membership, cooked branch meeting records, and so on have increasingly been labelled “counter-revolutionary” and questions have been popularised as to “who funds” the costly legal proceedings.

This contrasts with the Eastern Cape where one group is still bent on getting the dismissal of the historic Eastern Cape provincial conference that elected Oscar Mabuyane. They call for an interim structure to rerun the 2017 elective conference (with implications for the legality of Nasrec conference). ANC deputy president David Mabuza’s pronouncement that the Mabuyane executive committee is legitimate and recognised by the NEC is not enough for them.

Mpumalanga is still in limbo, with approximate agreement that the provincial leadership issues will not be resolved, for now. The Western Cape has a peace-keeping ANC relic, Ebrahim Rasool, to hold the electoral front of the ANC campaign; the true provincial succession is on hold, similarly, for post-election times. Doing it now will ignite that hornet’s nest.

The Msholozi rebellion also appears to be contained — at least at the level of overt ANC candidate-selection — in North West. Here Supra Mahumapelo’s provincial government monopoly was stalled, perhaps stopped, through his excision from government and party.

He declined inclusion in the North West national task team, where the Supra-ists would have been overwhelmed. He called the task team the result of an anti-Supra purge. The former PEC kingpins are glued to legal challenge, undeterred by the broader ANC trend to halt legal challenge in favour of factional inclusivity.

The space created through the ANC nomination processes, along with the general forward thrust of ANC factional inclusion and unity that combines with looming deadlines for a place on the bus that will deliver the best chance for a spot in Parliament or a provincial legislature, are helping to close spaces for subversion of the mainstream ANC processes.

There is little wind left to fill the sails of the North West-Free State (and sprinklings elsewhere) Mazibuye African Congress (MAC) and the KwaZulu-Natal Zuma apostles of the African Transformation Congress (ATC), both fearing formal entrance into the electoral arena.

As these de facto ANC primary elections unfold and feed into the final stretch of converting from branch into provincial and national candidate lists, the odds are in favour of the ANC’s political outliers scrambling to make the cut-off of nominations or of influencing nominations… That is, if they can fit themselves into the ANC list’s quota matrix of gender (50%), youth (35 or younger, 20%), skills (33%) and continuity of representation (40-50%).

Prospective nominees also have to fulfil criteria such as “no history of ill-discipline or corruption, no history of involvement in fostering divisions and conflict, no other breaches of the ANC’s code of conduct”.

Removal from the list of aspirants will require 80% support from list conference delegates. With the NEC itself divided and operating in truce conditions, this level seems like a guarantee of enforced consensus — and little veto of the nominees. The new dawn ANC embodies ambiguity. DM


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