Gigaba gains from Juju’s fall

2011-11-12 19:31

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has emerged as the man to watch in the ANC’s leadership race.

Following the suspension of Julius Malema and the sex scandal that rocked Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, various sources say Gigaba is stepping in as the party’s new rising star.

A former youth league president, Gigaba has quietly built a support base for himself to secure a top position in the ANC’s next elective conference in Mangaung, with some suggesting he could aim for the position of deputy secretary-general.

Mbalula has made it known that he wants to challenge secretary-general Gwede Mantashe at Mangaung, but his campaign has received a setback following recent events.

According to those around him, Gigaba could step into incumbent Thandi Modise’s position because her support for Malema may render her unsuitable for President Jacob Zuma’s camp.

Modise was one of the ANC top officials reluctant to press ahead with Malema’s charges.

But Gigaba’s aides reckon he keeps his ambitions more modest than that.

“I can tell you that he is aiming to be at least in the top 10 of the ANC at the Mangaung conference. He was in the top 30 (in Polokwane) and now wants to move up the ladder,” a government official sympathetic to Gigaba said.

“But Zuma has always played him and Mbalula against each other as the new young stars of the party. Malusi feels he is more senior than Mbalula because Fikile succeeded him as ANC Youth League president.”

According to the source, Gigaba is also more experienced in government, having served as deputy home affairs minister under former president Thabo Mbeki.

His promotion to public enterprises minister last year was seen as a vote of confidence in him by Zuma.

Mbalula, in contrast, only came to the executive in 2009, when he was appointed deputy police minister, and was promoted to sport minister last year – a portfolio considered to be more junior than Gigaba’s.

A source close to Gigaba said his name was mentioned in relation to the position for deputy secretary-general and chairperson, but he denied the minister had such ambitions.

But another government official who has worked with both ministers, said there was subtle vying between Gigaba and Mbalula.

“There is always this quiet tension between the two,” the source said. “They will make jokes about each other in a subtle but ridiculing way.”

They would, for instance, compare the number of times they were interviewed in the media in a specific week, or Gigaba would make fun of Mbalula’s energetic way of speaking.

Gigaba will satisfy the commitment of the ANC to a greater “generational mix” among its leaders, those around him say.

Gigaba is said to be an “easy guy who likes to talk and laugh”. Mbalula is described as “a very sensitive guy who cries very easily”.

According to a provincial ANC organiser, Gigaba gets on very well with Mantashe, who will be his close colleague in Luthuli House if they are both elected.

Gigaba is highly respected in the ANC, which was reflected in the strong verdict by the party’s disciplinary committee in league secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa’s attack on him.

The committee defended Gigaba and said the attack undermined his position as ANC-deployed minister both locally and internationally.

Magaqa in September said Gigaba “never held a political view on any issue before now”, after he told delegates at the US Chamber of Commerce that the debate on the nationalisation of mines was reckless and was scaring investors.

Gigaba a few weeks later hit back in an indirect attack on the league, saying the ANC needed more “genuine revolutionaries” who weren’t only preoccupied with “leadership issues and palace politics”.

When asked if he wanted to comment on the issue, Gigaba declined.

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