And so the race begins

2017-04-16 06:01
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during the Israeli Apartheid Week in Rustenburg. Picture: S'thembile Cele

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during the Israeli Apartheid Week in Rustenburg. Picture: S'thembile Cele

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On the day that former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the rest of his Treasury team were infamously recalled from their trip to London, another local politician was on a road trip of her own.

The destination: Ben Marais Hall in Rustenburg, North West.

Under the watchful eye of the presidential protection unit, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was ushered into a hall filled predominantly with women clad in the ANC Women’s League’s green-and-black regalia.

The former minister, Mbeki-ite, AU Commission chairperson and one-time South African of the year (according to Gupta-owned ANN7) had been granted the honour of giving a lecture during Israeli Apartheid Week.

Ahead of the address, her eyes are glued to the paper on which her speech is written.

She glances up only occasionally to acknowledge praise, which is repeatedly thrown her way.

A regional leader of the women’s league fondly recalls her time with Dlamini-Zuma many years ago, “that time you were still very young, ugida [a dancer]”.

The speech is nothing to write home about. The good doctor rarely looks up and the hall grows restless.

Finally, after what seems like a lifetime, the address is over. Cue some singing and dancing, then Dlamini-Zuma gives a presidential jive and is quickly whisked away.

Fast forward to three weeks later. A lot has happened in a short space of time.

About 20 Cabinet changes, including a new finance minister and deputy finance minister, two massive protest marches against President Jacob Zuma, three of the ANC’s top six breaking rank and condemning the reshuffle, only to backtrack after being dealt with by the national working committee (NWC).

Dlamini-Zuma's public engagements 2017

February 5 – Gives keynote address at the Faith Gospel Ministries at its Women in Leadership
Service in Khutsong, Carletonville

February 25 – Gives keynote address at the Brethren Mission Church for the opening of its
megachurch in Thokoza

- March 15 – Officially returns to South Africa from her post at the AU Commission as its
chairperson. Is given rousing welcome by predominantly ANC Women’s League and ANC Youth League
supporters

- March 27 – Gives an address during Israeli Apartheid Week at an event held in Rustenburg,
North West

- April 13 – Gives an address at the ANC cadres’ assembly in the Free State. Other senior ANC leaders

Public appearances by the three – secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and deputy president and presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa – have been rare since.

The setting for Dlamini-Zuma’s next appearance is the Zamdela Multipurpose Centre in Sasolburg, Free State.

Senior ANC members will deliver a report on the outcomes of the NWC in a “cadres’ assembly”.

The report-back will be given by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, but all eyes are on those who are getting deafening applause upon arrival.

They include Free State ANC chairperson Ace Magashule, women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini, and Dlamini-Zuma.

Pandor says a few things about the ANC not being dictated to by the opposition or any other organisation.

She slams the use of the courts to settle political disputes that should be debated in Parliament.

She emphasises that the ANC has no leadership vacuum, that there is no need for leadership from Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota (leader of the Congress of the People) or Julius Malema (leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters), “the leader of the ANC is Jacob Zuma”.

The ANC has prohibited any talk of succession and political campaigning ahead of its national elective conference in December, where Zuma’s successor will be chosen.

Once Pandor has given the NWC report-back, Dlamini-Zuma gives the keynote address.

She is not an official of the ANC, or of any ANC league, nor does she sit on the NWC.

Dlamini is given the microphone to welcome the woman whom the women’s league has pronounced on as its presidential candidate, in blatant disregard of the ANC’s wishes.

It is a warm welcome, but it doesn’t compare to the welcome she gave her in February at a church in Khutsong where she compared her to Jesus, saying she was “both a lion and a lamb”.

“She is fearless and simple. Truth never runs away from her tongue. She is a leader with two ears,” she said then.

Nevertheless, as Dlamini-Zuma takes to the microphone and the attendees jump to their feet, it is all too clear that this is her moment. This is the certified opening of her presidential tour.

“We are not going to have presidents elected through the streets when we have a Constitution that says how presidents should be elected,” she says boldly.

“It is not surprising that the kids will think the ANC is corrupt, the ANC is useless, because that is what they’re fed. And that must also be transformed,” she says.

“It’s the first time I hear of banks allowing people to go out on to the streets and close the banks. It’s clear that radical economic transformation is going to be opposed,” she says, referring to the anti-Zuma protests.

This is nothing like previous appearances, her voice doesn’t shake, she maintains eye contact, she goes off script and fires on all cylinders.

The only similarity between this appearance and the previous one is the presence of the presidential protection unit. When asked by a journalist why they were with her, she stood up and left the room.

On Friday, the SA Police Service came to her rescue with an announcement that “threats” had been directed at her.

While the anointed one criss-crosses the country and is given ANC platforms to showcase her offering, there is no sign of her number one contender.

Ramaphosa has buried his head in the sand after boldly coming out against the president’s decision to axe Gordhan.

“That was the most unintelligent report that I have ever heard of,” Ramaphosa said. “I told the president that I was totally against this move,” he said at the time.

This was the moment his lobbyists had been waiting for, they believed he was sounding the warning bell, that it was finally “Game on”.

But after a rap on the knuckles at the NWC, the question now on many lips is: “Where is Cyril?”

Where is Ramaphosa?

With his contender’s campaign well under way, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s lobbyists are concerned that his principled approach will cost him the ANC presidency.

Ramaphosa threw his hat in the ring late last year during a radio interview when he said that if the branches wanted him, he was available for the presidency.

His condemnation of the recent Cabinet reshuffle gave his supporters hope that he would hit the ground running.

But his absence from the limelight since has some worried that it will cost him the position he has wanted since former president Nelson Mandela stepped down.

“He is too cautious, too worried about tarnishing his name.

"He should never have gone into politics if he can’t take the bull by his horns. He should be in Limpopo, Gauteng, the Western Cape and Northern Cape and other places that are willing to support him,” one supporter, who is a provincial ANC leader, told City Press.

Another suggested that he would look to shine at the policy conference in June, but lamented that it might be too late given Dlamini-Zuma’s head start.

“When we were campaigning for Jacob Zuma, we used to have house-warming parties and he would come.

"We would have wine-tasting events at Golden Horse Casino, the media would come.

"You agree to every invitation, you can’t be modest at such a time.

"As deputy president, you must insist on 40% government and 60% ANC work.”

Ramaphosa is today expected to make an appearance at the popular Zion Christian Church Easter prayer service in Moria in Limpopo.

It was not yet confirmed whether he would be given a platform to address the churchgoers.

In the past week, he spent time consulting with traditional leaders in Limpopo’s Vhembe area.

Later this week, Ramaphosa is due to attend a dinner hosted by the Black Business Council in Sandton in Johannesburg.  S’thembile Cele and Setumo Stone

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Read more on:    ancwl  |  pravin gordhan  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  jacob zuma  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma

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