No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
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An ANC supporter dances at FNB Stadium. (AFP)
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Just two months ago, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign seemed dead in the water as his rival for the ANC presidency, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, returned from the African Union and hit the campaign trail running.
Her campaign team looked very organised and determined. Ramaphosa was seen as dithering. But since his speech in Port Elizabeth on April 24 challenging President Jacob Zuma, his campaign has quickly taken shape.
In PE Ramaphosa called for a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, essentially putting Zuma on warning that should he become president, he will investigate him. Zuma wants former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report that calls for a judicial inquiry reviewed.
Since then Ramaphosa has been criss-crossing the country with his lobbyists. He has vowed to visit all nine provinces before the ANC's June policy conference. Last weekend, he got a small but important moral boost from the Northern Cape ANC. It is the smallest of the ANC provinces, estimated to contribute about 5 percent of voting delegates, but it became the first province to back him during its provincial congress. Newly elected provincial leaders boasted that small as they were, they have always backed a winner.
While Ramaphosa was always expected to pick up delegates in the smaller provinces like the Northern Cape and Western Cape, Dlamini-Zuma is getting support from the provinces that have remained loyal to Zuma to the end – the North West, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and Mpumalanga. But he is also expected to get a share of support from regional leaders unhappy with the chairpersons of the “premier league” provinces.
The deputy president is yet to get endorsements from any of the ANC’s structures in KwaZulu-Natal, but his televised visit to the Shembe church and his campaigning ahead of the Nquthu by-elections are signs that his lobbyists are busy on the ground. They claim as many as 40 percent of the KZN delegates will back Ramaphosa at the ANC conference and their silence is just to ensure that they don’t get removed from the lists of delegates ahead of the audits.
In the Free State “the second regime change” grouping wants to dislodge Premier Ace Magashule as provincial chairman. The resignation from Parliament of Thabo Manyoni, Magashule’s deputy chairperson, was a sign that the campaign is moving up a gear. The booing of Zuma during Cosatu's May Day celebration in Mangaung also gave them strength.
Interestingly, Dlamini-Zuma is yet to have a major campaign in Mpumalanga amidst talk that Premier David Mabuza is in serious talk with the Ramaphosa camp for a post in the top 6. Perhaps when Ramaphosa was calling for a “one ANC slate,” he was giving signals that talks with some seen as his rivals are underway. Mabuza, who has portrayed himself as a unifier, is said to be worried about the future of the ANC as a governing party if Dlamini-Zuma wins the race. Her close relationship to Zuma might be tolerated in the ANC and win her the elective conference, but with Zuma facing the worst negative sentiments against a president in democratic times, anyone close to him risks the party being further punished at the 2019 polls.
Dlamini-Zuma also appears to be speaking with a forked tongue about her ex-husband. She told The Star newspaper last Monday that “she was her own woman”, only to share a stage with Zuma days later in Bulwer in KwaZulu-Natal. He openly endorsed her, solidifying their “political marriage,” beyond sharing friends.
Limpopo is expected to be divided, with both sides claiming to have the upper hand. But the regional elective conferences that were due to take place earlier this year are yet to go ahead, to give an indication what direction the wind is blowing.
Gauteng will back Ramaphosa but Dlamini-Zuma is likely to get support from the Ekurhuleni delegates if Mayor and regional chair Mzwandile Masina survives the elective conference, scheduled for August.
Ramaphosa is now officially the alliance partners' candidate with the fourth partner in the ANC alliance, the South African National Civic Organisation, announcing it will back him. No-one takes them seriously because their influence has somewhat declined and it's not known how many of its members would be eligible ANC delegates at the elective conference in December. But they got the headlines, adding to the psychological warfare playing out in the media.
Ramaphosa’s campaign strategy is to model himself as the one who will correct all that is wrong with the ANC and prevent a possible defeat of the ANC in 2019 after the decline in the 2016 municipal elections. So serious is Ramaphosa to clinch the top job he has gone to the extent of confronting what some believe could be a stumbling block to his ambitions: Marikana. He is planning to personally apologise to the widows of the mine workers who were killed.
This will be no easy task. But if some accept his apology, the strategy of the opposition parties and some ANC factions to use Marikana as a stick to beat him with will be seriously weakened. The June policy conference, will give us some indication of whether Ramaphosa’s “change” campaign or Dlamini-Zuma’s "it's time for a woman to lead" is coming out ahead.
- Mahlatse Gallens is political editor of News24.
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