Inside Mangaung: The battle lines are drawn

2012-12-16 10:00

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Judging from the overwhelming support President Jacob Zuma has received from provinces, he looks set to remain ANC leader at the end of the week.

But the Forces of Change lobby has not given up the fight.

The strategy of leaders such as ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, NEC member and businessman Tokyo Sexwale and treasurer-general Mathews Phosa is to make this elective conference as difficult as possible.

The Zuma lobby had wanted a status quo conference to present a facade of unity at Mangaung.

We look at the strategies of the key players for the next five days. Expect a lot of noise and bickering.

President Jacob Zuma

With six of the nine ANC provinces and two of its three leagues lined up behind a second term for President Zuma, the incumbent’s backers are confident of victory.

At the close of nominations, only Western Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo, and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) had nominated Motlanthe as president.

All of the other provinces, the ANC Women’s League and ANC Veterans’ League have swung with Zuma.

Senior Zuma lobbyists told City Press they had originally wanted deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to stand as Zuma’s deputy to ensure continuity and avoid a potentially punishing battle between the ANC number one and number two.

However, Motlanthe had not been receptive to their initial approaches, preferring to only commit after the branches had wrapped up their nomination process.

This, combined with his failure to deliver on a promise to distance himself from the ANCYL’s use of his name in its campaign to unseat Zuma, pushed KwaZulu-Natal in particular towards nominating businessman and national executive committee (NEC) member Cyril Ramaphosa to run as Zuma’s deputy.

“We approached him to see where he stood. He told us he had no problem with the president. We engaged him on the youth league’s use of his name to undermine the president.

“He told us he would go to the Eastern Cape and distance himself from them. He failed to do this,” the lobbyist said.

While there had been debates in the Zuma camp about still nominating Motlanthe as deputy from the floor and encouraging Ramaphosa to stand down, there has been little movement in the past week.

Motlanthe has accepted nominations as president, deputy president and additional member of the NEC, and is unlikely to be convinced to refuse to stand as president.

Motlanthe lobbyists confirmed he would only go for the deputy president position if he lost a direct challenge to Zuma. – Paddy Harper

Kgalema Motlanthe

As Motlanthe jetted into Mangaung on Saturday, he knew he was going to lose the bid for party president.

An aide said the ANC and country’s deputy president was not relying on a swing vote, and is running as a show of independence and principle.

He has refused the offers of all lobbyists to be on their campaign slates.

“As things stand, the ANC is not an organisation,” said the aide, who explained Motlanthe’s view that the ANC had become a federation of provincial empires, where branches had been mortgaged to the highest bidder.

Why stand then or not play the game?

To answer this question, you have to return to Motlanthe’s documents, written from 2000, when he coined the term “the new cadre” and began plotting the idea of organisational renewal to inculcate

the values of selflessness and service back into the ANC’s rank and file.

Even earlier, Motlanthe wrote, in committee, the seminal ANC document titled Through the Eye of the Needle, a biblical term eschewing wealth to reach the promised land, meaning that cadres should stop the amassing of material goods to build the promised nation.

Motlanthe is said to be sad – not so much for his political future, but for the state of the ANC.

He is re-reading various sermons and books to explain the moment. Key to these is a sermon reflecting on a time when people did not have mirrors. People could not see their beauty, except through the eyes of others.

The religious allegory is one against ego and for spirit – an entreaty to live for others.

Motlanthe often tells the story to show that the ANC has become inward-looking under his successor, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe is of the view that anybody who is not an ANC member cannot criticise the party.

This week, he told church leaders who issued an impassioned 10-page assessment of the precarious state of the nation, to leave the ANC alone.

“Nowadays we see ourselves in the mirror and tend to talk (only) to ourselves,” Motlanthe has been telling his circle.

With a presidential salary for life, he is said not to be too worried about his future and may well end up running the ANC’s political school.

He is also running for party deputy president, as well as for a position on the national executive committee.

The ANC is unlikely to reject him completely. – Staff reporters

Tokyo Sexwale

If Human Settlements Minister Sexwale saw the ANC as an investment opportunity, he got more returns this time around than in Polokwane – two nominations.

The Western Cape wants him to be the new treasurer-general of the ANC, while Gauteng sees him as the second-in-charge if deputy Kgalema Motlanthe beats Jacob Zuma and becomes president.

Sexwale has not made up his mind yet about whether he will take up either nomination, or perhaps accept them both.

The considerations are that if he does, he may be up against Motlanthe, who will almost certainly lose the presidential race and then enter the deputy presidency contest.

If that happens, Sexwale will technically be contesting an ally and will split the vote for the Anything but Zuma camp (a term he coined).

But if he declines nomination, his second attempt at a top job in the ANC would have failed – and Sexwale is aware his time might be running out.

The ANC is likely to embark soon on a drive for younger leaders who can take the baton from the veterans.

The treasurer-general position may be an easier one to manage.

There, the contest will be between Sexwale and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize – but the support for Mkhize is so overwhelming that Sexwale might wonder whether it is worth running at all.

Sexwale has also been identified by Zuma supporters as one of the first post-Mangaung casualties.

Zuma is expected to manage a Cabinet reshuffle during which he’ll decide what to do with those who oppose him at Mangaung.

Sexwale does not necessarily need the money that comes with a ministerial position, but he does need the political clout it brings, particularly if he still has future ambitions. – Mandy Rossouw

Mathews Phosa

The ANC’s treasurer-general is a poet and a philosopher. Quizzed about what seemed to be an outside bet he has made on being the party’s deputy president, he warned:

“If you read the book Imperium (a fictional biography on Roman philosopher Cicero by Robert Harris), at the door of an election which everybody thought he was going to win, they asked him: ‘Cicero, are you winning?’ He said: ‘Only a fool will predict elections.’

“I’m saying to you today only a fool will predict elections. All of you who are trying to predict elections may be fools.” Last week, Phosa had 385 nominations for deputy president against the favourite Cyril Ramaphosa’s 1?999.

As treasurer, Phosa has taken the ANC from deep in the red to nearly black. There are still unpaid debts, but staff members are paid on time, and he has built important and powerful alliances for the ANC. He is a senior in the ANC and quite regularly speaks his mind on topical issues.

Phosa says he will today spell out to ANC branches the reasons he has accepted nomination for the position of deputy president.

Branches are the source of authority on leadership, mandate, policy and election manifestos, he says.

“(Members should) assert the right of branches to authority in the movement and not try to micromanage or manipulate the branches, because that is not democracy, but something else that is un-ANC.”

The ANC should allow a festival of ideas and dialogue to thrive, he says, which means members of the ANC should agree to disagree on issues.

“We should also keep alive the spirit of criticism and self-criticism, and defend the views of those who differ from us rather than see them as enemies,” he says.

It was for the same reasons that he had refused to campaign, to the irritation of those who expected him to.

The Mangaung conference is ultimately not about any individual but for the ANC as an organisation – the reason he is running. He will not

reveal what he will do if Motlanthe runs as deputy president.

Phosa is 60 years old and has held many leadership positions in the ANC. – Sabelo Ndlangisa

Cyril Ramaphosa

One would think businessman Ramaphosa is smiling all the way on the road to Mangaung.

He is almost sure of a victory as deputy president at the party’s elective conference and he hasn’t needed to lift a finger to do it.

But according to those around him, he is not exactly practising his moves for a victory dance as yet.

The decision by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to contest both the position of deputy president and president makes life more difficult for the former secretary-general of the ANC, who is now ranked by Forbes as Africa’s 21st-richest man.

A source with knowledge of the nominations process yesterday claimed Ramaphosa had not yet signed the acceptance form for his nomination as deputy president.

Close on 2?000 provincial delegates nominated him for the position, but Ramaphosa’s close allies say he is still not sure whether to go for it or not.

Ramaphosa has not said a word about his views on being nominated, and he has not actively lobbied for himself – privately or publicly.

Ramaphosa’s considerations centre on whether he wants to align himself with President Jacob Zuma, who is not considered a paragon of virtue in the circles Ramaphosa moves in.

But the allure of possibly taking over the state presidency in 2014 is not something to be snubbed. Many supporters and lobbyists of Zuma want him to vacate the Union Buildings before the 2014 election.

The Sowetan reported that Motlanthe met with Ramaphosa earlier this week – before he signed the acceptance form – to explain his position to him.

Motlanthe has maintained his position is a principled one and that he would listen to the will of the branches.

Motlanthe’s spokesperson, Thabo Masebe, yesterday said he wasn’t aware of the meeting, but added Motlanthe made the decision himself, “not informed by any discussions with anybody”. – Mandy Rossouw and Carien du Plessis

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