Cyril wins round one

2017-07-02 06:00
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA

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Supporters of former African Union Commission head and presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were humiliated on Friday, the first day of the party’s National Policy Conference, when the backers of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa defeated an unexpected bid to prevent the tabling and presentation of a scathing diagnostics report on the party’s problems.

An intense discussion broke out in the conference plenary on Friday as Dlamini-Zuma’s camp sought to flex its muscles by ensuring that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe would be barred from delivering a 10-page organisational diagnostics report, which placed much of the ANC’s problems on President Jacob Zuma’s doorstep.

Mantashe’s report went into specific ANC problems, including:

- The role of the Guptas;

- The Cabinet reshuffle;

- The leaked emails; and

- The Nkandla scandal.

The discussion turned out to be a proxy for the ANC’s succession race as those backing Zuma and his preferred successor, Dlamini-Zuma, aligned themselves with the view that the presentation be quashed, City Press heard.

Although the report was allowed in the plenary discussions, a fight-back against it was expected at the breakaway commissions.

City Press was made aware of a message sent by North West ANC chairperson Supra Mahumapelo to his delegates, who were going into commissions. The message read: “The position of our province is that the diagnosis must be done by the branches because the national executive committee (NEC) cannot diagnose itself ... and that this be done as part of branch discussions towards national conference.”

Sifiso Mtsweni, the recently appointed chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency, led the ANC Youth League’s charge to scrap the report.

At one point, ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete reprimanded him, saying: “You are trying to make a joke of this conference.”

Zuma’s backers claimed that the report emanated from concerns raised by the party’s anti-Zuma stalwarts and veterans – and that since said veterans had boycotted the conference, it was unnecessary for Mantashe to proceed.

The Zuma bloc also questioned Mantashe’s reliance on the SA Council of Churches’ report on state capture, released in May. In it, the council warns that South Africa is turning into a “mafia state” as a result of Zuma’s friendship with the controversial Gupta family.

Although he has tried hard to portray neutrality, Mantashe has been associated with the campaign for Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma.

Curiously, the ANC’s Mpumalanga branch started the debate on Mantashe’s report, but in the end it was premier and provincial chairperson David Mabuza who declared that the province was not averse to the presentation being tabled.

This to-and-fro displayed by the Mpumalanga faction has been described by Zuma loyalists as an attempt to test the waters ahead of the ANC’s National Elective Conference, set to take place in December, during which Zuma is expected to step down.

But their opponents have claimed an early psychological victory.

"We clobbered them"

City Press heard that during the heated discussion, ANC Gauteng secretary Hope Papo was among the first to take the fight back to the Zuma group. Other provinces, such as Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, seen to be sympathetic to Ramaphosa, also stuck to their guns and dismissed the proposal.

However, their counterparts from the North West and Free State disagreed. They were supported by the ANC youth and women’s leagues, each of which was allowed to bring almost double the number of delegates (64) permitted to attend the conference in a bid to “broaden the debate”.

Limpopo premier and ANC provincial chair Stan Mathabatha affirmed Mantashe’s report, but was contradicted by provincial youth league secretary David “Che” Selane before he was shouted down and told that he did not represent the provincial ANC, said an insider.

Mathabatha’s arguments won the day for those who wanted the report tabled.

“Stan said the report was drafted and approved by the NEC for presentation to the conference. Any report approved by the NEC for conference will be tabled,” said the insider.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula were allegedly among those who pushed for the report to be tabled. “But it was after Stan spoke that [Mabuza] stood up and said he was withdrawing the proposal,” said a delegate.

Sihle Zikalala, the ANC chair in KwaZulu-Natal, which tops the ANC in terms of membership, was heard telling the plenary that the province did not mind whether the presentation went ahead or not.

Both sides claim to have had the upper hand.

“We clobbered them,” said a pro-Ramaphosa delegate from Limpopo, supported by another from the North West.

However, a Gauteng delegate said the Dlamini-Zuma camp outclassed its opponents.

Mantashe finally spoke. He began by joking that he was from a family of spiritually gifted people, and had therefore “foreseen” the debate that had just happened. This was why he had prefaced the report with a quote from OR Tambo, which includes this sentence: “We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them.”

Later, at the media briefing, he said delegates had eventually “warmed” to the report, adding that it was not too different from Zuma’s political overview. He said his and the president’s presentations “overlapped” and that both were discussed at the special pre-conference NEC meeting that was held on Tuesday.

But unlike Zuma, Mantashe went into specifics about the ANC’s problems, including tackling issues such as the Guptas and the leaked emails, the Cabinet reshuffles and Nkandla. He also said it would be foolish to ignore the report by the council of churches.

Mantashe’s report blamed the ANC’s electoral decline since 2005 on the growing trust deficit between the people and [the ANC], on a lack of ethics, on the perception that the ANC was entirely corrupt, and on the collapse of organisational discipline.

“Another defence that has been bandied about is the one that counterposes the behaviour of this family [the Guptas] to white monopoly capital. White monopoly capital is invented as if it is a new phenomenon, instead of affirming that its defeat is at the heart of the revolution,” said Mantashe in the report.

On the ANC’s failure to be solution-orientated, he said: “One good example is the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla. The judgment is, in fact, the conclusion we came to more than three years earlier.

“However, because it was perceived to be an attempt by some as trying to trap [Zuma] into an admission of guilt, no firm decision could be taken.”

More than 3 700 ANC branch delegates from the country’s nine provinces, as well as the youth and women’s leagues, are attending the policy conference, which is scheduled to continue until Wednesday as the ANC refines its government policies and comes up with new proposals for the next five years.

Saturday was quiet compared with Friday, with a focus on the strategy and tactics document submitted by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and the organisational renewal document submitted by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.

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