Mpumalanga’s Mabuza dons the King of Compromise-Peacemaker robe

CAPE TOWN — There was always going to be a gap for an opportunistic provincial leader to take and grasp the heroic cloth of peace-maker and unifier of the hugely-conflicted ANC. I use that collective noun deliberately because calling it the ruling party is simply inaccurate. The self-serving Zuptoid faction, for whom incumbent President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ), is their preferred successor, rules our country. The party itself does not. It is too divided for that, as the current chasm between the factions just 12 days before the elective conference shows. Cyril Ramaphosa’s reformists claim they are the new broom that will sweep clean and restore dignity and integrity to the party. NDZ hammers on about redistribution (what kind you have to ask) and is largely silent on the flood of corruption leaks in her camp. Enter David Mabuza, premier of the second largest vote-holding province, Mpumalanga. He talks about the party having reached a critical point where deep fractures and disunity threaten its’ very existence. He’s absolutely right, and while the mass of voting abstentions in his province might show his influence, his national high-stakes opportunistic gamble can only offer any compromise-candidate a poisoned chalice – and some serious leaps up the party ranks for him. – Chris Bateman

By Sam Mkokeli and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) — The South African province that will send the second-most delegates to the ruling African National Congress’ conference this month is keeping its options open about who it will back as the party’s next leader, with almost half of its branches declining to name their candidate yet.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a lawmaker and former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, was endorsed for the ANC presidency by 123 party branches in Mpumalanga, while 117 supported Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, tallies released Friday at a meeting in the eastern town of Mbombela show. There were 223 abstentions by branches who want a so-called “unity candidate.”

File Photo: Supporters of the ruling ANC cheer during their party’s final election rally in Soweto, May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

It’s unclear how delegates from those branches will vote should no consensus be reached on who should take over from President Jacob Zuma as party leader at the Dec. 16-20 congress. Mpumalanga province will account for about 14 percent of the 5,240 voting delegates.

Ramaphosa holds the lead with nominations from five of the nine regions announced, having won backing from the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. Dlamini-Zuma was endorsed by the central Free State province. The deputy president so far has 859 branches to 417 for Dlamini-Zuma. The winner will be the party’s candidate in a national vote in 2019 that will bring an end to Zuma’s second and final term.

Deep Divisions

The party election has divided the 105-year-old ANC like never before, with court challenges, allegations of rigging and outbreaks of violence marring the process of deciding who will attend and vote at the conference. The contest has also paralyzed several government departments as officials delay decisions until they learn who the new leaders will be.

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane with Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza during a Nelson Mandela Day at Mshadza Care Center in Masoy, City of Mbombela.

“We are at a critical point where deep fractures and disunity are threatening the existence and the future of the ANC,” David Mabuza, premier of Mpumalanga and the party’s chairman in the province, said at Friday’s meeting. “Tough choices need to be made.”

The other four provinces are scheduled to make their preferences known over the next few days. Ninety percent of voting delegates will come from the branches, and the rest from the ANC’s leadership structures and leagues representing the youth, women and military veterans.

While the branch nomination tallies are the best available indicator of who’s likely to win, they aren’t conclusive because some bigger branches are entitled to more than one delegate and there’s no guarantee members will vote as instructed. Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize, the ANC’s treasurer-general who is also contesting the party leadership, have both warned delegates against taking bribes in exchange for their votes.

Most investors favor Ramaphosa, 65, a lawyer, former labor union leader and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, who has pledged to revive the ailing economy, reduce a 28 percent unemployment rate and combat corruption if elected. Zuma’s preferred successor is his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma, 68, who has echoed his call for “radical economic transformation” to place more of the country’s wealth in the hands of the black majority.

Mabuza’s electoral gun held to Cyril’s head

By Donwald Pressly*

COMMENT: Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza is playing the trump card for the December conference to elect a new African National Congress president. Long seen as a captive of the Zupta faction in the governing party, he appears to be forcing Cyril Ramaphosa’s hand to include Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the top line up, possibly as his deputy president. The Cape Messenger editor analyses the events of the last few days. – DP

Gauteng is now in the bag for Cyril Ramaphosa by a considerable margin. He also won the Eastern Cape and Western Cape in contests of the provincial general councils of the last ten days. He “lost” in Mpumalanga by six votes – 117 to 123 for NDZ –  but there are 223 “unity” candidates in the province. This is Mabuza’s card to ensure that the Zupta faction is given posts in the TOP SIX. Mabuza has made it clear he doesn’t want a contest for the party presidency, it is too divisive.

With Ramaphosa leading by a considerable margin across the provinces that have declared – about the same number as the ‘unity’ slate from Mpumalanga – Mabuza is sending a clear message that Ramaphosa must settle with Dlamini Zuma, most likely as his deputy – and possibly a few more Zupta faction candidates in the top line-up, such as Jessie Duarte, who has gathered some support across the provinces to keep the job as deputy secretary general. Mabuza is himself a candidate for deputy president. He would be likely to step aside to make way for his friend, Nkosazana.

Ramaphosa received 374 votes to Dlamini Zuma’s 64 in Gauteng at the weekend.

South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa kisses a replica of the skull of a newly discovered ancient species, named “Homo naledi”, during its unveiling outside Johannesburg September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Ramaphosa has the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape in the bag – and very strongly too. He is less strong in the north – oddly this is where he comes from. He is Venda from the Limpopo area.

Mabuza told City Press that the positions for the top six should be a “mixed slate, so we can say there is a semblance of the organisation”. The important thing now is the survival of the body of the ANC, he said. “We are reminding the ANC of its values.”

Significantly the Mpumalanga and Gauteng provincial general councils took place in the wake of the Matsimaholo general municipal by-election where the ANC was pushed down to 30 percent of the vote. It has serious implications for the ANC in the Free State if that result is extrapolated in 2019. It would mean that a range of opposition parties would win even in the Free State, which has long been overwhelmingly ANC-dominated.

Mabuza wants to avoid another ANC split like Cope and EFF

Delegates to the conference – and ANC supporters in general – will have it in their minds that the organisation must be seen to be united ahead of the 2019 national election. If they don’t achieve this, there is a considerable chance that the ANC would lose power then. So the stakes are high.

Mabuza clearly wants the ANC not to split, as occurred after the 2007 and 2012 conferences – Cope and the Economic Freedom Fighters respectively broke away. He can see that if the Ramaphosa camp loses, that group will split away. However, it is unlikely that the Dlamini-Zuma camp would split away if it loses – it is the face of the State capture grouping in the party which has backed President Jacob Zuma through a variety of scandals including his sex scandal, the alleged arms deal corruption scandal and now the state capture by the Gupta family.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Mabuza sees it as the best scenario to force the Ramaphosa and Zupta camps to remain together in government – but it is likely that he now recognises that Ramaphosa is now undisputedly the leading light. At present NDZ leads in the North West – by 291 to 45. She leads in the Free State with 209 to 44. It is neck and neck in Mpumalanga with NDZ with 123 and 117 (but this excludes the unity slate).

Ramaphosa leads in the Northern Cape with 154 to 11. He leads in the Western Cape with 121 to 13 and in the Eastern Cape by 473 to 61. Results must still finalised in the disputed areas of KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo.

Overall, Ramaphosa leads by 904 branches to NDZ’s 708 branches.

There is much speculation now that the Zupta faction will not allow an outright Ramaphosa victory – and may adopt legal delaying-challenges even at the elective conference. So the Mabuza strategy to find a compromise may save the party – at least for a while – and also save the conference itself.

  • Donwald Pressly, editor, Cape Messenger
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