Adriaan Basson

Editor's notes: Safety in numbers, but 2 700 needed to 'emerge' at ANC conference

2017-12-17 09:48


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VIDEO ANALYSIS: State Capture judgment - what this means

2017-12-13 14:38

The North Gauteng High Court has ruled that President Jacob Zuma must fulfil the remedial actions of the Public Protector as described in the State of Capture report. News24 Editor-in-Chief Adriaan Basson weighs in. Watch. WATCH

Day 1 of the ANC’s 54th national elective conference was as frustrating for political pundits as a draw in a game of soccer or rugby for a sports fanatic.

Yes, there was a lot of action, but nobody won.

From early on Saturday, different camps in the gruelling presidential race between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa showed off their size and singing abilities. In politics, posture is as important as fact.

If you can make people believe you are in front, you stand a very good chance of winning. Nobody wants to support the losing team.

So from early on Saturday morning, different groups of supporters paraded past the media camp (we are fenced in – literally – to keep the delegates away from our preying notebooks and pens). First up was the Eastern Cape delegation, staunch Ramaphosa supporters who sang about unity and why Buffalo Bill should "emerge" (ANC speak for win).

They were followed by a small ANC Women’s League delegation, who were dwarfed by the Eastern Cape singers.

But it was only when the first plenary started, in anticipation of President Jacob Zuma’s final political report, that the numbers game became visible for all to see.

The Dlamini-Zuma camp put up a spectacular show of force to welcome "Mama" to the stage. Delegates from the North West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the leagues took to the front of the hall and sang their trademark campaign song, asking NDZ to rise.

Their songs dwarfed out any other music or noises in the hall, packed with the 5 000+ delegates.

It was a sobering reminder for anyone who was ready to write off Dlamini-Zuma’s chances of emerging that she was still very much in the race. I was particularly impressed by how the North West, under Supra Mahumapelo, has taken the lead in the NDZ campaign.

None of the provinces supporting NDZ were surprising, but to see them in action was quite something. It was instructive to see how split the Mpumalanga delegation is; about 50% sang for NDZ, while the rest remained seated. Chairperson DD Mabuza conceded that his province would be split if both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma made it to the ballot.

That is good news for Ramaphosa. He needs substantial votes from Mpumalanga to beat Dlamini-Zuma, who has a large chunk (about 70%) of support from the biggest province, KwaZulu-Natal.

Ramaphosa entered the plenary hall with Zuma and the rest of the top 6 and they received a muted response.

If the conference was a singing contest, NDZ won hands down. But it isn’t, and both candidates are still eyeing that magical 2 700 number that should secure you the position of ANC president (there are about 5 200 votes up for grabs).

By late afternoon, both camps were circulating video clips of their 2 000+ supporters gathered for caucus meetings outside of the plenary. Both candidates realise the value of portraying yourself as the leading contender.

Singing is nice, but the credential plenary session, where the delegate numbers of all provinces and leagues will be checked, disputed and confirmed, is what wins or loses you the election. Allegations have already been levelled against Fikile Mbalula and Nomvula Mokonyane for improperly influencing delegates’ registration in favour of Dlamini-Zuma.

Gwede Mantashe, a Ramaphosa supporter and his slate’s candidate for party chair, has intervened and is committed not have the election “stolen”.

The credentials process was supposed to be finished on Saturday, but the conference is running at least seven hours behind schedule. This means the long wait to hear who has emerged is unlikely to come to an end on Sunday night, as Mantashe initially promised. After sorting out credentials, the party must still debate constitutional amendments (that includes the possibility of having two deputy presidents) and finish nominations before the voting can start.

When the delegates regroup on Sunday morning to dispute the legitimacy of delegations (KZN allegedly has more delegates than what their legitimate branches allow for) singing will no longer matter.

Baleka Mbete, outgoing ANC chairperson who announced late on Saturday night that she was abandoning her presidential ambitions and backing Ramaphosa, will be in control of the process. She will need nerves of steel to ensure the singing doesn’t turn into shouting and derail the entire conference.

Read more on:    anc  |  anc elective conference


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