Expect Ramaphosa to get another term but the battle will be for No 2 – Prof Theo Venter, UJ

The ANC caucus in Parliament managed to ward off a rebellion against President Cyril Ramaphosa with only 5 of its members of parliament voting  for the adoption of the Section 89  panel report on the Phala Phala theft that found that he may have violated the Constitution. Notably voting in favour of proceeding with impeachment was his arch-rival for top positions in the ANC, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Conspicuously absent from voting was Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the man who plans to challenge Ramaphosa for the ANC leadership, Zweli Mkhize. 

It means the obstacles have been cleared  for him to stand as president of the ANC for another 5 years when the organisation convenes at Nasrec, near Soweto for its 55th National Conference on Friday.  At his election in December 2017, Ramaphosa said he would focus on tackling corruption and that he was the unity candidate. Ramaphosa essentially made a deal to hold the ANC together, but the deal prevented him from making big decisions that he needed to make to take the country forward – and his decision to keep his friends close and his enemies closer almost cost him the presidency.  Political analyst Prof Theo Venter from the University of Johannesburg told BizNews he believes President Ramaphosa will emerge victorious to lead the ANC for a second term. Venter expects the biggest battle to be for the position of deputy president of the ANC, as the candidate would become president should Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala theft force him to fall on his sword.  – Linda van Tilburg  

Excerpts from the interview below:

Ramaphosa’s 2017 compromises lead to paralysis

What he did, he used the ANC default position on these kinds of faction fights…. and that is to establish a kind of a compromise. These compromises usually have an outcome: political paralysis, because you can’t move this side or that side. You will remember that we waited until  the early hours of the morning to find out whether he’d actually won the election against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and that was with a very, very small margin. That small margin he took into the National Working Committee, he took that small margin into the National Executive Council of the ANC, and he took that small margin into the parliamentary caucus at the beginning of his term as president of the country. That has been part of the problem over the last four or five years – when one expected him to act decisively, he just couldn’t because  his hands were politically tied behind his back. That’s the negative part of a compromise, the political paralysis that we’ve seen in South Africa. It was only in the last, I would say, 18 months when Ace Magashule, the ANC secretary-general who was forced to step aside, and with one or two other decisions in the party, that Ramaphosa looked as if he could now make a kind of a breakthrough.  And then came Phala Phala, this incident on his farm, which again brought him so much difficulty that you just wouldn’t  believe it. 

Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala victory was technical; it could resurface as a ‘filibuster’ request at Nasrec

He cleared it in a similar way that Boris Johnson cleared it once or twice, but eventually he had to fall on his own sword. And he cleared it very much like Donald Trump did twice when he was impeached, and the party kind of creates a safe haven for these politicians. But you can only do that so often and then it doesn’t work. But in this case, the ANC definitely did. They issued, interestingly enough, before the parliamentary meeting, they issued what is called a triple whippery letter. That means the whips sent letters to MPs, members of Parliament triple underlined. That means you must be here. So, in that way they mustered the 57% that they’ve got in Parliament as a majority and eventually cleared that hurdle easily. It now goes to the conference but I am expecting that although they had a win in Parliament against the opposition parties with only five or six members of the ANC breaking ranks, of course they’re out.  They ended their political careers in the ANC. But I would expect some of these members in the conference, on technical grounds, would also want to discuss the political events and that may impact on the programme. We have all received the programme now for the next few days and they worked it out by the hour. I know, having been there several times already, that it is kind of an ideal situation, the programme, if one of these almost filibuster kind of requests comes from from the floor. It changes the whole programme and timing goes for a loop. 

ANC delegates can be ‘influenced’ on the way to the congress

The top seats, the top six and the NEC are all elected by ordinary delegates from branches, not through the media, not through TV, not through radio but by those guys actually voting in a secret voting system. And as we saw in 2017, through the chaos of membership, it is possible to influence those guys towards the conference. How is that possible? Well, it’s a typical South African thing where you travel from Mpumalanga to Johannesburg where the conference will take place you will do that by bus or by taxi. Now, a taxi in South Africa, of course, is a minibus and it’s not a four-person vehicle and that is where the major mobilization takes place. If you’ve got your political apparatchiks on that bus or in the taxi, that is how these guys are prepared for the conference. So, a lot of the canvassing and the lobbying plays out en route to the conference. That’s why whether you’re nominated or not, what happens at the conference is very often vastly different from what we think is going to happen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that [bribing] is going to happen again. What they requested this time is that there shouldn’t be any formal play or list where guys would walk and go vote from a little cheat sheet of names. That’s not going to be allowed now. So now you must remember the names that you go to vote for. But I think there’s a lot of money flowing behind the scenes. 

Everybody expects Ramaphosa won’t complete a full second term as President 

We will see nominations for the floor, but not against Ramaphosa. The focus of this conference is not on the number one slot. I think the number one slot, in my view, is a given. It will be Ramaphosa, with a fairly good majority as well. The focus of this conference is, who is going to be number two and there’s a reason for that. The Phala Phala event that we saw in Parliament a day or two ago, and we are still waiting for several government agencies to provide reports and so on and so on, had a political outcome. Everybody expects that Cyril Ramaphosa most probably wouldn’t complete a full term as president of the ANC or as state president. That means that the expectation is that somewhere in 2023 or early 2024, he may just call it quits. 

 The big question is who will be number 2 

Everybody now focuses on the number two position: that of deputy president. Who will be deputy president? The ANC has gone into a succession mode rather than an electoral mode for number one. Number one will stay number one, that is Cyril Ramaphosa. But the big question is, who will be number two? Is it Paul Mashatile? And we know that he’s not very popular amongst the Ramaphosa groups. Is it Lamola? A lot of people say that he’s just too young. Is it David Masondo? I think for the number two position, we will see moves where some people will withdraw from the nomination list and there will be a proposal from the floor. My expectation is that Senzo Mchunu, the previous premier of KZN, could  be proposed. You’ll remember he lost to Ace Magashule with a few votes and there was this story about the ballots being in somebody’s handbag. That story was never resolved, but I expect him to be nominated from the floor. There are two strategic reasons for that. The one being he’s in KZN and the KZN guys learnt a very, very important lesson in 2017 and that was by not planning properly, they had no representation in the top six. By doing this, they will have.

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