Phala Phala will slowly but surely wither away – Prof Theo Venter

President Cyril Ramaphosa has managed to tighten his grip on power and has emerged more confident from the African National Congress’ 55th conference at Nasrec. Instead of hostile members of the RET faction hampering his drive to clean up corruption, the majority of members in the Top 7 of the ANC are now Ramaphosa allies. In his closing speech, the president said the ANC was able to pull back and prove to those that said the ANC would stumble forever that they were wrong. He re-committed himself to cleaning up government and his party and said the ANC had emerged united after the conference. But will Ramaphosa be able to abandon his cautious style and speed up the economic reforms he has repeatedly promised? And can we expect a Cabinet reshuffle in the New Year. Prof Theo Venter told Biznews he was expecting a Cabinet reshuffle with several ministers axed by the State of the Nation Address in February next year . Venter also said that with Ramaphosa firmly back as ANC President, he expected the Phala Phala controversy to “slowly but surely wither away.” – Linda van Tilburg

Cabinet change by February with Dlamini-Zuma, Sisulu and ‘Mr Fix-it’ probably axed

Three or four things are telling me that he will definitely have to shuffle this cabinet but now I’m relying on the Ramaphosa style, which is now called the long way, or the long style. He’s not taking quick decisions. If we look at next year, very early in the year, by the 8th of January, the ANC typically has the January 8th declaration, which is a statement of where the party is going. Following that, in the next 2 to 3 weeks are several government think tanks, called lekgotlas and then the Cabinet lekgotla, which is  another government planning session. Very early in February, there’s the State of the Nation address. I think Ramaphosa will definitely change members of his cabinet by then, which is early in February. He must get rid of  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. I think she cannot stay in cabinet anymore after what she did in Parliament, and the same with Lindiwe Sisulu. And then of course Fikile Mbalula, the current Minister of Transport, is now the ANC Secretary-General which is a full-time job for the party, so he must be replaced, which is good news because this guy, Mbalula, calls himself Mr Fix-It and a few other names, but he’s the clown of politics in South Africa. I don’t think his term as minister in any of the departments left a big footprint, rather a lot of chaos. 

Mantashe, ‘who grew up with candles’, should be shifted to another portfolio

 I think it is time for him now, as a senior member of the ANC, he remains the national chairperson of the ANC, to give him a different portfolio. I don’t think he works well in energy and there are discussions that Eskom must be added to energy, which I think will be a mistake, especially if you put everything under Gwede Mantashe. The problem with Mantashe and I’ve been working with him, having meetings and discussions and so on is that Gwede is of the opinion that he is a masterful kind of political prophet. That he knows exactly what  is going on and I don’t think that is so. I think Gwede is, roughly speaking, my age and we grew up with candles. Modern technology is not part of our makeup, and I just hope that the president will also see it that way too. 

Branches ignored highway codes to voting from provincial leaders

Towards the end of the election process, some provinces started changing their allegiance. The province I’m in, North West and the leader there, indicated that his branches must now vote for the N3. The N3 is the main highway from Johannesburg to Durban. That is the code for Zweli Mkhize and the code for North West was the N12 so his message to his branches was,, the N12 is now going to vote N3 and if you didn’t understand those numbers, it would have been chaos. The same happened in Limpopo, where the N1, which goes to Musina, also decided to vote N3, or Mkhize. In both cases the leaders that instructed the branches to change allegiance reminded us of what David Mabuza did in 2017, when at the last moment, Mpumalanga voted for Ramaphosa, which gave him the victory. This time around, the branches did not follow the instruction of the leadership. That, of course, has a political implication for somebody like Stan Mathabatha, the current premier of Limpopo and Nono Maloyi, the chairman of the ANC in the North West. I think he’s going to stay MEC for local government much longer before he’s Premier due to these actions. So, although those were political decisions made on the spur of the moment, we will see the long-term political effects unfolding over the next months.

Lesson for Zulu delegates after two conferences: ‘When your time is up, it’s up’

The rowdiness and the chaos and the noise and everything that happened,, the clapping on the tables inside, came from about 800 delegates from KwaZulu-Natal. The KwaZulu -Natal delegates played a very, very high risk game by supporting Mkhize and by supporting two or three other candidates. 

When the votes came out, KwaZulu-Natal was silent because for the second conference, they didn’t have a single representative among the Top Seven. When we analyse the members elected for the NEC, we may see a similar kind of development where KwaZulu-Natal is barking up the wrong tree. My information is that there is a kind of a blind allegiance or blind loyalty to old President Jacob Zuma. He still has a lot of influence amongst the branches and delegates. I think the lesson for them after two conferences is, when your time is up, your time is up. Move forward, not back.

Phala Phala will slowly but surely wither away 

I think Phala Phala kind of disappeared. The big decision was taken in Parliament a week or so before the conference and although there are still reports coming forward, the president also took the report to the Constitutional Court. I personally think that this thing will slowly but surely wither away. I think it is just going to disappear somewhere in the dust of politics in view of the current outcome and the support he received from party members unless the opposition can add something to it. What we can say about Phala Phala was that it was a serious challenge to his presidency from within the ANC. That’s where the challenge came from. Arthur Fraser did not do this on his own. I’m sure that it was done as part of a challenge to his presidency before the conference. The conference is over, he was elected with an increased margin. I think Phala Phala is dead.

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