What was he thinking?

2012-12-18 00:00

WILL ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe stay on as the country’s second in command after a bruising showdown with ANC president Jacob Zuma?

Motlanthe’s shock withdrawal from contesting the ANC’s deputy presidency yesterday has made it clear he will not work with Zuma in the party, raising questions about whether they can run the country together.

By last night it was clear that Zuma would convincingly win a second term as party president with a new deputy — 60-year-old billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.

Motlanthe’s decision to take Zuma on for the party presidency has probably brought an end to his political career. But how soon?

A key member of the party’s national executive committee said there was no reason for Motlanthe to stand down as the country’s deputy president after the conference, but an ANC MP close to Zuma said it might prove difficult for the two men to work together for another 18 months. A Motlanthe lobbyist said the deputy president might resign “because what is he going to do there now?”

Zuma has the power to appoint Ramaphosa as deputy president of South Africa if he becomes a member of parliament. The Constitution is clear that the president must appoint his deputy from the members of the National Assembly.

An anti-Zuma lobbyist who is in a provincial leadership structure said “there is nothing of that nature” when asked whether Motlanthe would be recalled.

But he said Zuma could be suspicious of Motlanthe because his deputy chose to challenge him.

“There was no relationship existing before, so anything is possible from their side,” he said.

“Knowing the kind of person that Zuma is and what transpired when Thabo Mbeki was removed [as president], they tried to remove Mbeki as president of the country with only a few months to go. The same thing might happen this time around.

“What might be problematic with Ramaphosa’s move is that he doesn’t see himself as a full-time deputy president of the country.”

Shortly after it was announced yesterday that Motlanthe was nominated as deputy president, another announcement came that he had withdrawn his candidacy earlier in the day.

Five sources said yesterday that Motlanthe took the decision to give the favourite nominee — Ramaphosa — a clear run at the position after the two met last week.

Motlanthe moved yesterday to protect his relationship with Ramaphosa by dropping out of the contest for deputy president.

Sources with knowledge of the discussions said Motlanthe wanted to secure a convincing victory for Ramaphosa to take on the role graciously and avoid a bruising and divisive battle.

But Motlanthe’s seemingly principled stance did not win him many fans: when his name was called for presidential candidate, there was feeble clapping from the floor, a good indicator of the way support was going.

Lobbyists for Zuma said the president had tried to convince Motlanthe to run as his deputy, but to no avail.

A Motlanthe lobbyist said yesterday Ramaphosa was reluctant to run against Motlanthe, but decided to do so after a meeting with Zuma at the weekend.

A source close to Motlanthe said Ramaphosa hadn’t been taken seriously initially, but later it became apparent that he really wanted the job.

The lobbyist said they did not regret nominating Motlanthe for president and campaigning for him.

“Whatever they do, the forces of change are still in the ANC and we have to contest an election in 2014. The ANC’s own research has shown that voters want change, and by challenging Zuma we are showing voters that, although some party leaders want to show that everything is hunky dory, everything is not fine.”

A pro-Zuma lobbyist from the Eastern Cape said Zuma’s supporters were happy for Motlanthe to remain deputy president of the country, but they would be watching him.

“We really want unity in the ANC. For now we want him to remain in that position unless he does something contrary to the interest of the ANC.”

Motlanthe had previously indicated that he would be happy running the ANC’s political school or teaching football.

KZN as a province has been backing the idea of keeping him on the NEC and eventually using him as an elder statesman and a head of the party’s political school.

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